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Jack Lowe on the 200 Voices podcast
200 Voices an RNLI podcast

‘It’s created instant hugs, tears and disbelief’

192. Talking Pictures: Jack Lowe

In an age of selfies, photographer Jack Lowe uses Victorian methods on his quest to capture lifeboat crew from every RNLI lifeboat station. He tells us why.

For a 200-year-old institution, it’s fitting that photographer Jack Lowe’s Lifeboat Station Project allows us to see the modern work of the RNLI through a historical lens – quite literally. In 2015, Jack set out on a 10-year mission in his mobile darkroom – a converted ambulance he aptly named Neena – to photograph crew members at all 238 RNLI lifeboat stations. Eschewing contemporary methods, he uses a 170-year-old process known as wet collodion – something Jack calls ‘mobile-gearbox photography’.

It’s a painstaking, multi-staged task, but the results are worth it. Jack has so far captured lifesavers at 158 lifeboat stations – many volunteers are moved by the photographs, sometimes to tears. In this episode, Jack talks about how old techniques can reveal new perspectives.

You can view many of the photographs taken for the Lifeboat Station Project at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. Women of the RNLI runs 2 March–1 December 2024. Book tickets on the Royal Museums Greenwich website.

Learn more about the Lifeboat Station Project.