The Lifeboat Station Project is about the lifeboat volunteers, for the lifeboat volunteers.
Photography has been in Jack Lowe’s blood since he was a young boy. Aged 8, he received a Kodak Instamatic camera from his grandmother, a turning point from which he’s never looked back.
Jack has also been bitten by the RNLI bug since childhood and was one of the very early members of Storm Force, the RNLI’s club for junior members.
Now he’s united those childhood passions by creating one of the largest projects ever undertaken in the history of photography — a body of beautiful, engaging work that has become Jack’s full-time occupation.
Travelling in his mobile darkroom (a decommissioned NHS ambulance), Jack uses an ancient process to make photographs on glass as the Victorians used to between the 1850s and 1880s.
By visiting every RNLI Lifeboat Station in the UK and Republic of Ireland, Jack is creating an unprecedented archive, preserving a vital aspect of our island nation’s culture for future generations. The Project is the first time anyone has tried to create a complete photographic record of every single lifeboat crew, so it will have enormous historic significance.
The photographs will ultimately be showcased in a stunning exhibition and book, both of which are set to be huge fundraisers for the RNLI.
The Lifeboat Station Project is currently scheduled to be completed in 2020. A selection of the work has already been acquired for a National Collection.
WHO’S BACKING THE PROJECT?
For the first two years of its life, the Project was entirely funded by Jack and what he could raise under his own steam through the The Shop — in essence, his own form of crowdfunding.
Since Autumn 2016, Jack’s been fortunate enough to receive a small contribution from the RNLI in return for the charity using the images to promote their work. This contribution covers less than half the costs of making the photographs but goes some way to smoothing out the (sometimes terrifying) financial peaks and troughs.
So, Jack still relies on the support of the amazing people who love following the journey and appreciate what it takes to keep it on the road.
Learn how to become a supporter by clicking here or you can now become a Patron for the price of a monthly coffee using this button:
Using a process known as Wet Plate Collodion, Jack is crafting unique photographs on glass, capturing the view from each station and the waters protected by the RNLI crews.
As well as the view from each station, he also makes photographs of each Coxswain, the Helms, the crew and — when time and resources allow — the women and mechanics.
Jack’s ultimate vision is to show the photographs in geographical order around a huge gallery; as the audience stands in the middle of the venue and looks around, the sensation of seeing the entire coastline of the UK and Ireland captured on glass will be extraordinary.
Each glass plate — known as an Ambrotype — is a beautiful standalone artwork. However, the true glory of such an endeavour will be realised in bringing around 1000 photographs together as one exhibition.
Never one to think small, Jack would love a high-profile London venue to house the work — somewhere large enough to accommodate an RNLI all-weather lifeboat as a centrepiece along with Neena (his mobile darkroom) so that people can see where the photographs were made.
As part of his contribution to the RNLI community — and in exchange for their help on the day — Jack gifts each station two limited edition prints: Print No.1 of the crew photograph and Print No.1 of the Coxswain/Helm portrait.
TRACKING THE PROJECT
The Lifeboat Station Project began on 12th January 2015.
At some point on the journey, Jack will be coming to an RNLI Lifeboat Station near you!
Keep track of his movements on the Mission Map and via the usual Social Media channels: