Poole Photography Students Focus on the Past with the RNLI

Lifeboats News Release

Students from Poole took a trip back in time in order to discover the art of glass plate photography.

Jack Lowe and photography students from Poole High School at RNLI. Jack holding glass plate.


Jack Lowe and photography students from Poole High School at RNLI. Jack holding glass plate.

Sixteen young people from Poole High School visited the RNLI headquarters in the town to find out more about the history of photography and lifeboats.

The A-level photography students learnt how to create images on glass using a Victorian technique called Wet Plate Collodion.

The workshop was led by Jack Lowe, creator of the Lifeboat Station Project, who is currently travelling the country photographing all 238 RNLI lifeboat station on glass.

Jack uses a camera made in 1905 and travels in an ambulance converted into a mobile darkroom called Neena, which was parked at the RNLI so the students were able to jump inside and see the process first-hand.

The students also had their own portrait made by Jack at the RNLI’s All-weather Lifeboat Centre to mark their day with him.

Ellie Douglas, photography lecturer from Poole High School, said: "The students have had a great day - it's been unforgettable.

"An opportunity for them to do something like this is fantastic. It gave them a window on how a practising artist works and how motivated they need to be to move forward with their studies. It's really broadened their understanding. They've been very fortunate."

As well as discovering techniques used by photographers in the 1800s, the students were introduced to the RNLI and its life-saving history thanks to a talk from Joe Williams, from the charity’s Heritage Team.

Joe heads up the HLF Beken Project, which has seen the RNLI receive £30,100 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to preserve a collection of nearly 1000 glass plate negatives of lifeboats dating back to the turn of the 20th Century.

The images are from the historic archive of the famous Beken family in Cowes, who have been photographing maritime activity for generations.

The students’ workshop with Jack formed part of the RNLI’s work to engage the wider community in Poole with this project and with the history of lifeboats.

Many more local people will have a chance to get involved when a selection of the Beken lifeboat photographs go on show at Poole Museum next year.

An exhibition entitled 'Calm Before the Storm: The Art of Photographing Lifeboats' will run at the museum from 26 January 2019 to 22 April 2019.

The historic images will be shown alongside glass plate images of current lifeboat stations and crew by Jack Lowe. And the exhibition will also explore the stories of individual lifeboats and their volunteer crews, from starting service to saving lives at sea.

The project has all been made possible by money raised by National Lottery players and a generous gift from Christopher Andreae and The Scorpion Trust.

Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West, said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we’re delighted to support this project which will provide a fascinating glimpse into our maritime heritage – from coastal communities to crews at sea. As well as ensuring the survival of this unique collection, this project will give people of all ages the opportunity to get involved in exploring their heritage.”

The RNLI’s heritage archive dates from the charity’s foundation in 1824 right through to the present day. They are largely held at RNLI Headquarters in Poole, and relate to, lifeboats, gallantry medals, fundraising activities, legacies and publications.

Notes for Editors

'Calm Before the Storm: The Art of Photographing Lifeboats' celebrates the digitisation of over 800 Beken plate negatives. It will be a display of Beken RNLI images along with glass plate images by Jack Lowe, of The Lifeboat Station Project.

It will be at Poole Museum from 26 January–22 April 2019.

A small display of RNLI Beken images are also on show at The Shipwreck Centre, Arreton Barns Craft Village, Arreton, Isle of Wight, from July 28- October 7.

A full press release about The Lifeboat Station Project is available here or go to the Project website here: https://lifeboatstationproject.com/.

For more information about the Beken family go here: https://www.beken.co.uk/

For press enquiries or additional images, please contact the RNLI Press Office: 01202 336789/ pressoffice@rnli.org.uk.

Jack Lowe/ The Lifeboat Station Project

The glass plate image of Poole students made by Jack Lowe.

Jack Lowe/ The Lifeboat Station Project

Photography students and Jack Lowe's mobile darkroom 'Neena'

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.