Jack Lowe Captures Ireland's Life Boat Crews with One Hundred Year-Old Cameras.

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(Jack Lowe with his camera from 1905 - Photo Credit: Jack Lowe)

Jack Lowe (twitter @ProjectLifeboat), a photographer from New Castle on Tyne, is going to all the 231 Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) stations in the UK and taking pictures of the crews and it's Coxwain's with Victorian camera technology.

His photos are captured on glass plates in a camera that was made in 1905 using a process known as Wet Plate Collodion. For those of you unaware of how difficult this process is here's a video by Quinn Jacobson:


One of the biggest challenges in attempting a project like this is that the images taken need to be developed within 15 minutes, or they become unusable. That would necessitate having a mobile darkroom, so, Jack converted a decommissioned NHS ambulance into exactly that. He drives around to all the ports using an ancient process to make photographs on glass as the Victorians used to between the 1850s and 1880s.

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(Jack Lowe setting up a shot with his camera - Photo Credit: Jack Lowe)

His plans are twofold. One to take beautiful pictures to present as and art gallery, and other, by visiting all 238 RNLI Lifeboat Stations in the UK and Republic of Ireland, he's creating an unparalleled photographic documentation in a lost art form of a vital part of the UK's services. 

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(The same dock from above, but taken with Jack's Camera.  Photo credit: Jack Lowe) 

As a thank you to each station for their time, Jack presents them with two prints of the pictures he took, which are usually a group shot and a picture of each Coxwain or Senior help at each station.

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(Hamish Corrigall, Portree RNLI Coxswain, 23rd April 2016 - Photo by Jack Lowe)

To quote the Life Boat Station Project website:

Jack's ultimate vision is to show the glass plates in geographical order around a huge gallery; as the audience stands in the middle of the venue and looks around, the sensation of seeing the entire coastline of the British Isles captured on glass will be extraordinary.
Each glass plate -- known as an Ambrotype -- will be a beautiful standalone artwork. However, the true glory of such an endeavour will be realised in bringing around 1000 plates together as one exhibition.

Never one to think small, Jack would love a high-profile London venue to house the work such as Tate, The National Maritime Museum or Somerset House -- somewhere large enough to accommodate an RNLI All Weather Lifeboat as a centrepiece along with Neena (his mobile darkroom) so that people can see where the photographs were made.

How cool is this? Because they're in a career that uses older style boats, these pictures look like they could very well have been taken decades ago. I'd actually like to see a series of these on modern fighter pilots. It'd be kind of interesting and bizarre to see an old image of modern technology. Like a weird alternative steam punk future. Either way, the images are stunning and it's a great way to capture an industry. Immortalized in history, by history.