Hold Fast

Just one month ago today, I was making photographs with the lifeboat volunteers of Dartmouth, the 150th stop on my 8 year journey to every single RNLI lifeboat station.

The five-week itinerary for Mission 20 was originally comprised of eleven lifeboat stations —  seven along the South Devon and Dorset coast, before making the journey by sea to document the four lifeboat stations on the Channel Islands.

However, little did I know at the time that Dartmouth would be my last for the time being.

Last year, I published a blog post called Vintage Photography? in which I wrote:

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.

Now, more than ever, the irony is that my photographs really do feel like they’re from another era.

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
Dart RNLI lifeboat volunteers, 12×10 inch Clear Glass Ambrotype, 15th March 2020

On the evening of Monday 16th March, the Prime Minister delivered his speech on the new social distancing measures, a speech and sentiment that changed everything.

Just an hour or two later, the RNLI asked me to pause my project for the foreseeable future.

In the lead-up to those moments, I could certainly feel the corona net tightening around me, not least as the language was rapidly changing as I travelled along the South Devon coast to Dartmouth from where I posted a video on my Patreon page.

Looking back at the video now, it’s clear that my anxiety was building. My patrons really picked up on it too.

How will this affect my income?

How long will I be able to keep going?

Will the pandemic end the project that I’ve poured my heart and soul into for the last five years?

They were tricky moments, as indeed they remain for everyone.

So, although the final news was a blow, it wasn’t a total shock. Nevetheless, as you can see from this video that I shared publicly two days later, there was a lot to digest:

The next morning, I packed up Neena and drove the 400+ miles back to Newcastle, three weeks and eight lifeboat stations earlier than expected.

The curtailed mission was a round trip of over 1000 miles to visit just three lifeboat stations yet I knew, as always, that it was more than worth it for the very special people I’d met, the glass plate photographs and sound recordings we’d made together and, therefore, the stories to tell.

Once home, I wasted no time in getting to the studio — I worked through the weekend scanning the plates, hoping to get everything shipshape just in case the UK followed the path of other countries around the globe with a full lockdown.

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
Chris Winzar, Salcombe Coxswain, 12×10 inch Clear Glass Ambrotype, 6th March 2020

On Monday 23rd March, I’d just finished scanning the final plate when the Prime Minister delivered his next speech announcing the lockdown.

My urge to keep working so hard had been justified and, in those moments, I was relieved to have done all I could in the studio, enabling me to continue the rest of my work from home.

As I type 23rd March, it really doesn’t seem long ago, does it? Yet it’s a world away.

A TIME TO SHINE

One month on from Dartmouth, I guess it would be easy to think that I might be a ball of anxiety, exhausted and crushed. After all, I’ve been through a lot over the years and shared some of it too!

However, I feel very positive and extremely grateful to be safe and well.

The rollercoaster I’ve weathered over the years has served a purpose, equipping me with the mental strength I’ll need over the coming months — the mental strength to hold fast.

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
Dave Milford, Plymouth Coxswain, 12×10 inch Clear Glass Ambrotype, 10th March 2020

For me, this is a much-needed period to pause, rest, digest and reflect on what I’ve achieved so far — a time that I’m hoping will ultimately provide me with the fresh impetus required to complete such a huge project.

I also see it as a time to continue entertaining the people who’ve followed my journey for all this time — people just like you.

After all, my project has been shining a light on the greatness of others for years and that doesn’t need to stop now because of the pandemic — this good news story can continue and must continue.

I have a vast array of photographs, videos and sound recordings in the locker that have yet to see the light of day and I’ve already been creating the ideas that I’m hoping will help us survive these uncharted waters.

Those ideas are largely in the form of podcasts (you may already know that sound is a medium I love just as much as photography and it’s become an intrinsic part of the project).

By the end of last month, I’d already edited and published my conversation with Plymouth Coxswain Dave Milford — 40 minutes of gold dust which has been incredibly well received.

You can hear it in this Patreon post (I’ll come to that in a minute) and you can enjoy a preview here, as well as on my Podcast page:

I’ve also introduced Sounds from the Coast, a series of mini-soundscapes derived from the sound recordings I’ve made over the years.

The first 5 minute episode is publicly available on my Podcast page but you can listen to it right here too:

Subsequent episodes of Sounds from the Coast will be published on my Patreon page, a place where I’m hoping to garner enough support to help keep the project afloat (again, more on this to follow below).

Finally, my ongoing Project Diaries — a series in which I reveal little-known anecdotes from my journey — has morphed from the written word into podcasts too.

I published the first podcast version of Project Diaries last weekend, an anecdote from Dungeness. Click here or on the image below to access it:

Project Diaries: Shingle Siesta
BUT I’M GOING TO NEED YOUR HELP…

“This is all excellent, positive stuff under difficult circumstances, Jack, but why do you keep banging on about your Patreon page?”

Well, there are no two ways about it — I’m going to need your help if the project is to survive the lockdown and beyond.

If you’ve enjoyed following the journey so far and would like to contribute to its future, I hope you’ll consider helping to fund it.

I’ve set up all kinds of ways that enable you to pledge whatever you’re comfortable with starting from just £1 per month…

…£1 per month for a ton of extra stories, videos and podcasts in addition to the thousands I’ve posted on my social media feeds over the years…

…£1 per month to enjoy those and have the satisfaction of knowing that you’re helping the project survive beyond the lockdown.

£1 per month. That is all.

As one of my new patrons wrote to me after she signed up:

“I saw a post you made on Twitter last week about starting a £1 patron category and thought I could afford that. I had never visited your Patreon page before and was surprised when I went to it to see that there were already £3 and £5 categories.  I guess I just assumed that pledge categories would start at £25 and up, something I wouldn’t be able to afford, and am sorry for thinking that without investigating because I would have definitely started contributing sooner if I had just checked out your page.”

If a good proportion of my online followers — people like you — support the project, it will survive the lockdown…and when you’ve pledged your support, you’ll find a wealth of extra blog posts, videos and podcasts await you!

Thank you for reading. Please scroll down for further details…


BECOME A SUPPORTER


If you’d like to learn about all the other ways you can help to fund the project, here’s the page you need including a new way to contribute monthly…and where you can even simply buy me a pint:

BECOME A SUPPORTER

On my Patreon page, I’m aiming to reach my goal of 476 patrons — two for every lifeboat station on my journey.

Over 260 have kindly pledged their support so far…

Become a Patron of The Lifeboat Station Project on Patreon

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

In the mood for learning more? I answer some frequently asked questions here:

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


PHOTOGRAPH CREDIT

Behind the scenes photograph of Jack on the beach at Dungeness by John Chennells

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