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24 Hours With The Lifeboat Station Project

I’m just back home, having spent the last 24 hours in Hunstanton, assisting Jack Lowe with his Lifeboat Station Project, and I feel compelled to write about it, an experience that frankly I’ll never forget.

Before I set off on my journey, early on Thursday morning, I did a quick search for the postcode of the Hunstanton RNLI lifeboat station. One thing that popped up unexpectedly in the search was a video, called ‘Hunstanton hovercraft crew rescues three girls from drowning’

I urge you to watch this video (make sure you have the sound turned up) as what initially looks like a calm summer scene, soon changes and reveals the sobering drama that the crews often have to deal with, and as someone who has a daughter of his own, I don’t mind admitting that it had me close to tears. It demonstrates very clearly what an important organisation the RNLI is, and above all how selfless and brave the crew members are.

I mentioned to Jack that I had only just seen the rescue video, and how moved I was by it, to which he smiled and said he’d be making the portrait of one of the crew members from that same rescue, today.

So the picture you see below, is of Jack making the portrait of senior helmsman Michael Darby, who is the man you see in the video, jumping in to the sea to rescue one of the girls.

One thing that quickly became apparent, was how helpful the crew are, and will pretty much do anything possible to make Jack’s job easier, or the shot possible. Here you can see their 10 ton Talus amphibious tractor, which is used to launch and retrieve their class B lifeboat, manoeuvred in to place for the portrait of senior helmsman Michael Darby. Let me tell you, that tractor is awesome, in the true sense of the word. On the left is ‘Neena’ Jack’s now iconic, and mobile, wetplate darkroom.

Below is a picture of Jack making RNLI crew member Leesa Espley’s portrait. We found out later in the day, from one of Leesa’s fellow crew members, that she’s also in the Fire service. From what I’ve seen and heard, this trait of being humble, is common amongst RNLI crew members.

Finally, here’s me looking pretty pleased with myself, having just been handed one of the prints I bought from the project, by the man himself. The print is called ‘Wells Silhouette’ and is one of many beautiful pictures that are available to buy in print form. The detail, mood and qualities of these photographs has to be seen to be fully appreciated.

Having spent the day helping Jack, I was struck with how emotional the whole experience is, photographing the crew, listening to their stories, spending time around the lifeboat station and witnessing their kind and modest nature. And lets not forget the wet plate process, surely the purest form of photography, and so captivating to witness.

I would urge anyone with an interest in the project, the RNLI or simply photography, to consider purchasing a print or two (or more) as it’s really these print sales that keep Jack on the road, and able to continue this truly epic and historic journey. There’s no crowdfunding going on here.. this project is fuelled by passion and importantly, belief.

Please, head over to the project’s web site and find out how you can be involved.

Photograph © Jack Lowe 2015

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