Photo Corners

A   S C R A P B O O K   O F   S O L U T I O N S   F O R   T H E   P H O T O G R A P H E R

Enhancing the enjoyment of taking pictures with news that matters, features that entertain and images that delight. Published frequently.

Matinee: 'The Lifeboat Station Project' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

8 April 2017

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 182nd in our series of Saturday matinees today: The Lifeboat Station Project.

"On a piece of paper," photographer Jack Lowe tells us at the beginning of this five minute clip, "I wrote down 'photography, the sea, lifeboats.' And that became the initial twinklings of the Lifeboat Station Project."

Lowe has combined his two life-long ambitions in the Lifeboat Station Project. Ever since he got his hands on an Kodak Instamatic at the age of eight, thanks to a prescient grandmother, he's wanted to be a photographer. And he's wanted to be a Royal National Lifeboat Institution lifeboatman since early childhood, too.

The project is about and for lifeboat volunteers. And it has one full-time employee: Lowe.

Last year RNLI volunteers rescued 23 people a day, saving 558 lives.

Lowe travels the British and Irish coasts in a decommissioned National Health Service ambulance which he has converted into a mobile darkroom to process his wet plate collodion images.

He photographs the view from each of the 238 RNLI stations (one more than the video counts) and the surrounding waters protected by the crews. He also takes a portrait of each coxswain or senior helm plus a group portrait of the crew.

They are a busy group. Last year RNLI volunteers rescued 23 people a day, saving 558 lives.

He ultimately hopes to exhibit the approximately 1,000 ambrotypes he expects to make and to publish them in book form, too. But he doesn't expect to finish the project until 2020. You can follow his progress on this map.

The video shows Lowe at work with his ancient lens and developing tray but as he says, the technology is really "a key to unlocking the engagement" of his subjects. They stand over his should to see the image come up as he develops it and you see the delight in their faces when it comes up.

It doesn't hurt that the images themselves are gorgeous.

Lowe confesses what a hard time he had making one of his latest group portraits. He couldn't get everyone in focus at the edges. He thought he had dropped his lens, damaging it. But that wasn't it.

The problem was that there were more and more volunteers coming out for the portraits. There were just more faces to squeeze into the frame. A nice problem to have.

The RNLI is unique, Lowe says. "It's made up of people of all walks of life who all have this core value. At a moment's notice they'll drop everything and they'll be there to help somebody. Which is kind of incredible."

As, we might add, is Jack Lowe.

BackBack to Photo Corners