As many of you may know, I’ve been working hard over recent months to strengthen the foundations of The Lifeboat Station Project. It’s a period that has included excellent discussions with the RNLI, the charity that I’ve loved since childhood.
With that in mind, I’m pleased to share this message to all my followers from Eleanor Driscoll at the RNLI, the person who kindly gave my idea the charity’s blessing back in 2014:
Hello, I’m Eleanor Driscoll. I’ve worked with the RNLI for almost 14 years as Film and Image Manager, overseeing the production of RNLI films and photographs for campaigns, marketing and film use. I’m also the person who directed the film about Jack’s work at the bottom of this post.
If you’ve followed Jack’s journey, you’ll be aware that there have been some ups and downs. I wanted to write this in order to address some concerns and also to issue a rallying cry, to encourage people to support Jack on the next stage of his journey.
Jack first contacted me in 2012 with an idea for a photography project about the RNLI. At that time, we were busy promoting Nigel Millard’s book of lifeboat photos Courage On Our Coasts and I felt we didn’t need another photography project.
I hope Jack will agree that this ‘rejection’ was a blessing in disguise, as, when he approached us again in 2014, he told us he had now expanded his idea to use engaging Victorian photographic techniques.
Because we get many people coming to us with ideas that involve photographing or filming our crews, we do have to be selective, primarily because we have to be mindful of our volunteer crews. They already give up a great deal of time for us, so we want to ensure that if we ask them to do anything extra it will be worthwhile.
But I was convinced that Jack’s unique proposal would benefit them — and the RNLI as a whole — so we agreed to give Jack permission to visit all our lifeboat stations.
None of us could have predicted the scale of the reaction to Jack’s work. From the very beginning, The Lifeboat Station Project attracted significant media interest. As a charity reliant on public support, media coverage is vital for us.
Traditionally, media attention has focused on lifeboat rescues. But Jack’s work shone a new light on the RNLI — one that focused on the faces of our volunteer crews. The brave, vulnerable, all-too-human humans that are inside the big orange boats that crash through stormy seas on television news reports.
As well as appearing in countless newspapers, radio shows and TV programmes, the Project found its way into publications that wouldn’t ordinarily feature the RNLI, like Ernest Journal and The Lady – bringing our work to new audiences. It also became extremely popular on social media and Jack has also been asked to give talks in prestigious places like the Apple Store in Covent Garden.
Even though the Project hasn’t yet reached the half way point, museums and galleries are already exhibiting Jack’s glass plates and prints.
But an ambitious project on such a massive scale is far from easy.
When he first began the Project, Jack had hoped to fund it through print sales – but, although print sales remain a mainstay of his income, they are not quite enough to sustain the Project on their own. The funds they generate also vary from month to month and, given that the project requires regular financial outlays (glass and chemicals, accommodation and fuel and so on), Jack needed to find additional and regular support.
There was also some confusion about the Project – many people assumed that it was an ‘official RNLI project’ that was entirely funded by us and therefore, they didn’t appreciate the need to continue supporting him too.
This certainly isn’t the case. Since September 2016, we have given Jack a small licence fee to allow us to use his images on social media to promote our charity, but this covers less than half his costs. He still needs to fund the rest – and pay all his bills.
Simply photographing 238 lifeboat stations using glass plate photography is challenging enough, but on top of that, Jack spends a great deal of time trying to keep it afloat – using social media to encourage people to support the Project. He isn’t just a photographer – he’s had to become a product developer, salesman, marketing man and social media professional too.
To be frank, we became concerned about Jack, and not just because we knew that his financial situation was becoming precarious. We are very aware that people who do extraordinary feats – whether that’s epic photographic projects or saving lives at sea — do so at a cost to themselves. Even our lifeboat crews need support and guidance to help them deal with the stresses and strains of their work. Doing something exceptional is never easy, even though sometimes it can appear that way.
To the outside world, The LSP may have looked like an exciting journey around the coast, but behind the scenes, Jack was struggling to cope. We could see that Jack was so committed to the Project, he would never want to stop, but we didn’t want him to work himself into the ground.
Over the last few months, we have had some honest conversations, because we at the RNLI wanted to make sure that Jack felt fully able to carry on. He has assured us that he can – and now I want to ask you to help him do just that.
As Film and Image Manager, I know how powerful an image can be. I also know that, when complete, Jack’s body of work will form an unprecedented historical archive. I believe that we are incredibly lucky to be the chosen subject of one of the largest photographic projects ever undertaken.
We at the RNLI recognise and are grateful for Jack’s commitment to this Project. We can see it is of enormous benefit to our charity and we are committed to supporting him in all the ways we can. We want to ask you to join us.
If you enjoy following the Project online, why not commit a small amount of money per month to keep it on the road? It’s very easy to do via Patreon – an online crowd-funding system that allows people to support the Project for as little as £3 a month. That’s less than a take-away coffee – and you will receive rewards in return, such as seeing your name printed in the final book collecting all Jack’s images of our lifeboat stations. Patrons who feel able to pledge larger amounts can even receive once-in-a-lifetime rewards, like a day on the road with Jack or even their portrait made on glass.
As well as being rewarded for your support, becoming a Patron also allows you to go ‘behind the scenes’ of an artistic endeavour, and really get involved, as Jack shares the high and lows of his odyssey with his Patreon supporters – and often turns to them to ask for their opinions or seeks their input on his work.
Jack estimates that it would only take 4 per cent of the people following him online to sign up as Patrons for The Lifeboat Station Project to run smoothly – why not be one of them?
Jack’s photographs will outlive all of us. You have a chance to be a part of creating a body of work that will be seen and admired by future generations, long after we have all gone! What an opportunity that is.
I do hope you will join me and the RNLI in supporting The Lifeboat Station Project.
BECOME A PATRON OF THE PROJECT
OTHER WAYS TO SUPPORT JACK’S JOURNEY
Jack explains the importance of supporting artists:
Learn more about Jack’s incredible journey:
BEHIND THE GLASS
A short film by the RNLI about The Lifeboat Station Project
Released October 2016