“It makes me feel alive, Jack, that’s what it does…”— Howie Whyte, Loch Ness RNLI retired lifeboat volunteer
In addition to the above, I’m now able to offer you an even higher quality audio experience for this recording — the ability to listen to it exactly as I intended without it being normalised by SoundCloud.
If this would be of interest, please email me and I’ll send you a private link!
Let’s rewind the clock to 2018 for a moment, to the day I’d finished photographing the Loch Ness RNLI volunteer women, helms, crew and the view from the boathouse doors:
It was yet another fantastic station visit and I really connected with many of the crew. Some have even supported the project since — and it’s an honour to know they’ll be reading this post some 31/2 years on.
I’ll always remember Howie [far right in the helm portrait and fourth from left in the front row of the crew portrait] welcoming me so warmly to the station. He keenly told me that he was looking forward to seeing what I would produce and that they would gladly help me to achieve my task.
He approached me again after making the final photograph to tell me what he thought about the project, how it is great work in his eyes, that he’d been following my travels and would be sure to keep following, especially now he had a greater appreciation of what’s involved.
Howie has a very intense, purposeful and engaging way about him and I was completely immersed in what he was saying to me in those moments.
Then came the exciting invitation “for lemon drizzle cake and Colombian coffee” that I mentioned in my previous post called Great Things Will Be Made [my goodness, such a lot has happened since writing those words].
We spent a wonderful afternoon walking, chatting and laughing before saying our goodbyes, after which I made my way along the coast to Buckie.
I really regretted leaving so soon, just when it felt like we were getting started.
So, to cut a long story short (and as I’m sure you will have learned by now), I returned to Scotland at the end of September to stay with Howie and Sandra at their place high above the shores of Loch Ness in the Highlands.
I wasn’t sure how it would go and I imagine they would’ve had their anxieties too. Would I stay for a couple of days or for a week? I eventually tore myself away some ten days later.
During my stay, I endeavoured to earn my keep by mucking in with their eco-café (more on that another time). I felt so comfortable in their company and in the hoose — the home they built from the trees on their land, and where I understand very few get to even cross the threshold.
As we settled into our slice of life together, we made glass plates and recorded many hours of conversations, exceeding all my hopes and expectations for taking the project deeper into lifeboat life.
A PRIVATE UNIVERSE
Howie and Sandra retired from the lifeboat last year, something inshore lifeboat crew are required to do at the age of 55.
Therefore — when taking into account my paused travels — the context of this meeting was really quite different when compared to the intensity of my station visit in 2018.
But it was a deeper context that would prove invaluable to us all.
To refresh your memories from that post back in September:
“How will I know which house is yours?” I asked Howie following his kind invitation in 2018.
“Because I will put a large RNLI flag over the gate!” he replied in his booming, smiling voice.
Sure enough, there was the flag. He’d certainly made it easy to find.
One of the first sights I clocked on arrival was a handsome Harley Davidson sitting peacefully, yet looking as ready as a lifeboat.
I asked Howie about it and he told me that it was his means of getting to the station promptly when the emergency pager sounded.
“…and let me tell you, Jack, I’m nearly always the first person to arrive!”
I didn’t doubt him for a moment.
That first brief conversation about Howie’s treasured Harley stuck with me. It seemed like an iconic statement of intention and commitment to the cause of being a lifeboat volunteer — there was nothing casual about Howie’s approach to the task in hand, including his mode of transport to get to the station.
With that in mind, I hoped I would get to make a very specific photograph one day when the time was right, a photograph that would succinctly tell the story of the words above.
On 28th September, I finally got to make that photograph with Howie:
This is the first time I’ve shared the finished plate more publicly (aside from the time I shared the freshly-made plate in the wash tray via The LSP Society app).
Only a handful of people have seen it so far and, for the moment, these special stories will only be shared with members of The LSP Society.
As I’m sure you can imagine, the composition is very purposeful. I’ve featured the road that Howie had to ride along to get to the station. I also wanted to show the gate to Howie and Sandra’s place, even down to hanging the RNLI flag over it, just as Howie had done for my first visit in 2018.
Not only that, but I really wanted to convey the enigmatic nature of Howie and Sandra’s land, their own private Universe — and you’re gonna have to get past Howie to see it!
And there’s one more detail that Howie was keen for me to include — can you spot Neena? I love it when she’s included too, the delicious narrative being that the very place where this glass plate was created is also within the photograph.
PICTURES WITHIN PICTURES
A mighty fine luxury to making large format 12×10 inch plates is that there are often pictures within pictures.
So, here’s a closer look at the plate, the same thing that would have happened if I’d used the same lens but with a smaller piece of glass in the back of the camera:
ADD AUDIO TO THE PICTURE
On a final note, I would now like to invite you to listen to the audio recording I’ve created for you at the top of this post while perusing these images, including the colour ones below.
I hope it brings the photographs to life for you in a way that I believe only audio can.
As always, I recommend high quality headphones for the best sonic experience. I use Audio-Technica M40X to monitor and edit my recordings — they’re the kind of thing I mean when I say ‘good quality’.
That’s all for now. I’ll look forward to hearing what you think of this first story from my time with Howie and Sandra…and there are plenty more in the pipeline over the winter months!
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