Inside this issue
Jack Lowe is a documentarist using photography, audio recordings and film to tell the story of The Lifeboat Station Project, his 8 year journey to all 238 RNLI lifeboat stations on the coast of the UK and Ireland. Jack photographs and interviews the lifeboat volunteers he meets along the way but there’s a twist! Travelling in his mobile darkroom — a decommissioned ambulance called ’Neena’ — Jack uses Victorian photographic techniques to hand-make the images on glass. Head to his website to see the hundreds of photographs made over the last five years and to find out how you can support and follow the rest of his journey.
In 2012 I paused by my local river and everything changed. I’ve moved away from what many expect photographs to be: my images deconstruct the literal and reimagine the subjective, reflecting the curiosity that water has inspired in my practice. Water has been my conduit: it has sharpened my vision, given me permission to experiment and continues to introduce me to new ways of seeing.
Boats have been in Jack’s blood - and water in his lungs - from a very early age, closely followed by a passion for photography. Some of you will know Jack from his time as a master printer, responsible for bringing Paul Kenny’s creations to life. I still remember the impact of seeing Paul/Jack’s prints in Southwell Cathedral as part of the Masters of Vision exhibition in 2015.
That same year, Jack embarked on a new adventure, and project called The Lifeboat Station Project. What started as an ambition to photograph the view from each lifeboat station around the UK’s coastline became a homage to the volunteers of The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). So far he has made over 2000 glass plates using, to quote Jack, “the highest resolution photographic process ever invented”. Each trip is an exercise in forward planning, as everything he needs has to be taken with him, and every step is an opportunity to mess up. There’s something very heroic about the images, the crews’ poses, and the project itself. Like many others, Jack had to put his plans on hold in March this year but it has meant that we’ve been able to talk to him at length. Jack describes himself as a picture maker and a storyteller, rather than a photographer, and this is quite a story. Jack doesn’t do anything by halves, and that includes interviews, so make sure you’re comfortable before we begin....
Would you like to start by telling readers a little about yourself – where you grew up and what your early interests were? I read that you spent your first few years living on a boat, and you’ve talked about the sea being very much a part of your soul?
I had quite an eclectic and nautical start to my life. My Dad was a deep sea diver in the North Sea, so I was born in Aberdeen. He has a wonderful story about a helicopter collecting him in a 5 metre swell from the Blue Whale — the largest construction ship in the world at the time — and he was able to get to the hospital just in time for my birth!
A few months later, we ended up living on my grandfather’s boat — a 102ft Victorian ex-steam yacht called Amazon — during my baby/toddler years on the River Thames at Teddington. However, in the hot summer of ’76, the river became too dry and she kept resting on the bottom, so we moved round to Ramsgate harbour.
During that time, my Mum worked for Hoverlloyd as a stewardess on the awesome SRN4 cross Channel hovercrafts.
Apparently, when she was at work one day, my Dad took me on an errand across the harbour in the little rubber dubber. I was clipped in but, when he looked astern, I’d fallen overboard with my legs in the air and my head dangerously close to the propeller. He hurriedly picked me out of the drink by my ankles. The salty harbour water drained from my lungs, he sat me up on the sponson, patted me on the back and I gave him a big smile.
When my Mum got back from work, she immediately knew something had gone awry because of the badly-chosen combination of dry clothes that my Dad had dressed me in.
So, yes, the sea has very definitely been in me from an early age!
Fast forward a few years and I got into photography aged 8 (more on that in a moment), lifeboats at around 10 years old, kayaking aged 11 and dinghy sailing shortly after that. All the while, I loved Lego and railways too (big ones and model ones). These are all interests and passions that have stayed with me.