Vintage Photography?

Four Mechanics of Llandudno, North Wales

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At very first glance, my photographs look like they were made a long time ago, don’t they? After all, I’m using a process invented by the Victorians. But after a second or two, people come to realise that they are in fact highly contemporary.

Why? Because they start spotting the visual clues: modern equipment, clothing, buildings and even the excellent fact that many lifeboats are crewed by women, which certainly wasn’t the case back in the 1800s.

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
Kinghorn RNLI volunteers with their Atlantic 85 lifeboat and submersible launch tractor, 12×10 inch Clear Glass Ambrotype, 11th April 2019

When describing my photographs, some mistakenly call them vintage. This happens a lot in the press with headlines like:

“Vintage photographs of lifeboat crew snapped with Victorian camera”

It’s easily done, of course, and it’s not the easiest process to describe to a new audience.

However, my photographs aren’t vintage at all — in the moments they appear on glass, one of the really overwhelming sensations for whoever’s witnessing the magical process is that the pictures are utterly brand new.

They look old but they’re not! Very confusing for the poor old brain box to deal with at first.

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
Four mechanics of Llandudno on the station’s state-of-the-art Shannon Launch and Recovery System (SLARS), 12×10 inch Clear Glass Ambrotype, 11th April 2019

People seem to enjoy getting their heads round it and, during discussions on my journey, I often mention that we wouldn’t say to a painter, “That’s a beautiful vintage painting you’ve just made!”

Ditto drawing, pottery or sculpting — all processes that have been around longer than photography.

For example, compare these two photographs from Montrose and South Queensferry — they could have been made 100 years apart. In fact, just one year has elapsed between the making of these glass plates:

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
The view from Montrose RNLI lifeboat station featuring the water jet propelled Shannon class lifeboat, 12×10 inch Clear Glass Ambrotype, 28th June 2018

The Forth Bridge, 12x10 inch Clear Glass Ambrotype by Jack Lowe
The Forth Railway Bridge, 12×10 inch Clear Glass Ambrotype, opened in 1890, photographed on 16th June 2019

There’s a great word that describes the strange sensation of something appearing to be from an older period than it actually is, and that word is anachronistic.

Even though the process dates from 1851, my photographs are among the most contemporary on the planet!

Food for thought?


The Lifeboat Station Project is an 8 year art project funded by my online community, mainly through shop sales or by becoming a supporter.

If you’d like to learn about all the other ways you can support my work, here’s the page you need including a new way to contribute monthly…or where you can simply buy me a pint:



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