Photographer Jack Lowe is on an odyssey to capture all 238 RNLI lifeboat stations using Wet Plate Collodion, a Victorian process that creates stunning photographic images on glass.
Later this month The National Library of Wales and the RNLI will host a joint event to celebrate an exhibition of Jack’s work which was purchased by the Library in 2017.
Jack’s been on the road for three years and, with 100 stations under his belt, he's nearly half way through his challenge.
In 2017, The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth purchased a selection of Jack’s prints for the National Collection of Welsh Photographs.
Now they’re hosting the very first exhibition of those images: powerful portraits of Welsh lifeboat stations and their brave volunteer crews. The free exhibition runs until March 2019 and forms part of the NLW contribution to Welsh Government's 'Year of the Sea', a year-long celebration of the Welsh epic shores.
It is also the very first showing of prints from The Lifeboat Station Project, an inspiring undertaking which has attracted significant national media attention and garnered an enormous following online. It has evolved into one of the biggest photographic projects ever undertaken and is set to be completed in 2021.
There will be a 'Lifeboat Fun Day' at the Library on April 28 to celebrate the exhibition and to mark the Year of the Sea. Jack will be on hand throughout the day, giving demonstrations of his unique style of photography. There will also be a welly wanging contest, a lifeboat on display and activities for children, including face-painting, nautical story-telling and a treasure hunt.
The iconic Library building is also set to be lit up yellow to raise awareness of the lifeboat charity’s yellow-themed annual fundraising appeal Mayday, which runs throughout May.
Jack, who lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, said he was looking forward to the event and extremely pleased to have his work shown at the Library:
“This is the first time my photographs have been recognised at a national level in this way. I dreamed it might happen one day but I never expected this kind of acknowledgement while in the midst of making the work.”
“I am over the moon for the RNLI volunteers too. I can’t make these photographs without them, so it’s wonderful to see our brave lifeboat men and women placed on such a high pedestal.”
Jack has loved photography and lifeboats since he was a boy – and says that The Lifeboat Station Project was born from uniting those two passions.
Since 2015, he has been travelling to lifeboat stations across the UK and Ireland in his mobile darkroom - a decommissioned NHS ambulance dubbed 'Neena'.
His Project will be the first complete photographic record of every single lifeboat station on the RNLI network – and a lasting tribute to the brave volunteers from all walks of life who crew the lifeboats.
The photographs by Jack held by the National Library of Wales were made at Aberystwyth, Angle, New Quay, Tenby and St Davids lifeboat stations.
They are housed within the National Collection of Welsh Photographs, which comprises over a million photographs connected to Wales. These range from works by pioneering photographers from the earliest days of photography to portfolios by contemporary practitioners of the art.
Will Troughton, Curator of Photography at The National Library of Wales, said:
“Jack’s photographs are important to the National Library in many ways. They are part of a systematic documentary record of Welsh RNLI stations, the first to be offered to the Library.
“His use of a Victorian camera and glass plates produces atmospheric, mesmerising and aesthetically pleasing photographs. The use of black and white produces a timeless quality and emphasises the crew members rather than their brightly coloured equipment as well as creating a link to our historical photographs of lifeboat crews.”
Paul McCann, Aberystwyth RNLI crew member, said the experience of being part of the Lifeboat Station Project had been an enjoyable one for the station.
“It was a really great day. I think a few people were a bit sceptical beforehand, not really knowing what to expect, but it was a very different experience to the normal crew photographs we have taken. All the crew were amazed to be able to see the images developing on the glass plates there and then.”
By downloading the Smartify App, visitors to the exhibition can also access additional content – including audio interviews with lifeboat crew that Jack makes to accompany his photographs.
The event at The National Library of Wales runs from 11am to 3pm on Saturday, April 28. Caffi Pen Dinas will be open 10 - 4 to provide refreshments.
Media are welcome to attend to take photographs or interview Jack – please contact RNLI PR Manager Danielle Rush 07786 668829 or the RNLI Press Office 01202 336789.
Media wishing to visit the library for interviews or filming before or after the event should contact Elin-Hâf 01970 632471 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Media are also welcome to download the attached video/ photos and use with appropriate credits. More photographs are available if required. Please contact the RNLI Press Office 01202 336789 or email Jack directly email@example.com.
The photography exhibition, which is free, runs until 9 March 2019.
More on the RNLI MayDay Appeal
All the images by Jack Lowe acquired by the National Library of Wales are available to view here.
To find The Lifeboat Station Project online:
The Lifeboat Station Project