Photographer captures RNLI crews across British Isles with Edwardian camera

Jack Lowe organises the Oban lifeboat crew in preparation for their photograph. Picture: Moira Kerr
Jack Lowe organises the Oban lifeboat crew in preparation for their photograph. Picture: Moira Kerr
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A photographer is travelling around the British Isles to capture images of all 237 RNLI lifeboat crews with an Edwardian camera.

Jack Lowe photographed Oban lifeboat crew before heading for the Tobermory station at the weekend.

Shunning the digital age, he is taking his images on glass, using an Edwardian camera and an early Victorian process known as wet plate collodion.

He is travelling in an old ambulance he bought on eBay, which is kitted out with a mobile darkroom. Oban, the 50th station he has visited, is the first of the RNLI’s current Scottish lifeboat fleet that he has captured on camera.

Mr Lowe, 40, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, is the grandson of Arthur Lowe, best known for his role as Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army.

With his wife’s blessing, the married father of two – who has been taking photos since he was eight years old and has always worked in photography – is now 18 months into his five-year project.

He said: “I had got to the stage in life where I had lost my mojo a little bit. In a waking moment I just realised that if I could just jot down on a piece of paper what are my honest loves in life, beside my wife and children, that would be the sea, photography and lifeboats.

“I didn’t have any money behind me at all, so it was like going off a cliff, but it’s coming together now. It all relies on prints and poster sales to fund the project.”

His images are captured on glass plates and developed with chemicals in a darkroom in his converted ambulance.

He said: “I knew I would need a vehicle and what better than one that used to save lives before, to do a project about those who save lives at sea?”

There have been delays along the way. He said: “At Yarmouth, when I was lining all the crew up, the pagers went off so they went to save the lives of two teenagers on the Solent – and then they came back an hour later and just got on with the photos.

“The highlights have been when stations really throw themselves into the project and they really get it. Tobermory have been absolutely brilliant.”

When he finishes the project, Mr Lowe is planning an exhibition in London – including the ambulance, and, if possible, a lifeboat too.