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Jack Lowe and The Lifeboat Station Project

Jack has loved the RNLI since he was a little boy. He is now devoting his working life to visiting all 238 RNLI lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland to photograph our volunteer crews along with the view from each station.  It’s a project that will take him 8 years to complete. He also makes portraits of the RNLI’s Coxswains, Helms, mechanics and women crew.

Photographer and RNLI supporter Jack Lowe
Photographer and RNLI supporter Jack Lowe.
My dad is an experienced seafarer and introduced me to the wonders of lifeboats
Jack Lowe

Why did you decide to embark on this project with the RNLI?

My early childhood was spent on a Victorian schooner in Ramsgate harbour and on the Thames. My dad is an experienced seafarer and introduced me to the wonders of lifeboats – these wonderful, powerful pieces of kit designed for heroic, lifesaving missions on stormy seas.

From an early age, I knew that I wanted to be either a photographer or a lifeboat crew member when I grew up. Now I’m following my heart and uniting the two dreams.

What photographic method are you using?

I’m using a photographic technique developed in the 1850s, around the time that the RNLI was incorporated under Royal Charter. The photographs are made directly onto glass plates known as ‘ambrotypes’.

The word photography means drawing with light and that is how I think about it still. I adore photography in this very raw, basic form – light falling on chemicals. It really is magical – the final image is always a surprise, even to me.’

What sort of support do you get from the crews?

The project now enjoys an incredible extra dimension as everyone is so involved and engaged with it – the Coxswain and crew can step into my mobile darkroom – a converted ambulance called Neena - and watch a portrait of themselves developing. They are entranced, often rendered speechless and sometimes moved to tears!

Find out more

It’s a real labour of love – even for a dedicated RNLI fan – but Jack always looks forward to his next station visit. You’ll find further information about The Lifeboat Station Project at