Photographer captures his 100th RNLI crew in Kerry

It was the 100th RNLI lifeboat crew to be photographed by Jack Lowe, who is not even halfway through the project he has committed about five years of his life to.

Derry Clarke, owner and chef at L'Ecrivain restaurant, is supporting the RNLI's Fish Supper campaign. Pic: Valerie O'Sullivan

Travelling around the coasts of Ireland and Britain in an old NHS ambulance he has converted into a darkroom, the Englishman landed on Valentia Island in Co Kerry yesterday, where he was rewarded with a slap-up fish supper created by chef Derry Clarke.

The owner of Dublin’s L’Ecrivain took time out of his busy schedule to launch the RNLI’s fish-supper campaign and cooked for the hungry volunteers of the Co Kerry Lifeboat crew.

“I hope it’s up to scratch,” joked Lowe before sinking his teeth into cured salmon with cucumber, apple and dill, followed by seafood chowder and Flaggy Shore oysters, finished off with Lambay Island scallops with cauliflower and raisins.

The pop-up restaurant at the RNLI station was to highlight the charity’s Fish Supper campaign that’s taking place from October 13 and 15, where people are asked to host a fish supper with friends to raise money for the Lifeboats.

Photographer Jack Lowe, who is travelling around the UK and Ireland photographing RNLI lifeboat volunteers through a Victorian process, assisted in the venture by Duncan Davis. Pic: Valerie O’Sullivan

Photographer Jack — a grandson of ‘Dad’s Army’ actor, Arthur Lowe aka Capt Mainwaring — began his RNLI project in January 2015.

With 100 RNLI stations now completed, using an Edwardian camera but Victorian photography methods on glass plates, he’s still less than halfway through the 238 stations dotted along the British and Irish coastlines.

He estimates it will be at least the end of 2020 before it’s completed.

“My wife and I have been married for 21 years and our boys are 19 and 16 so I’m at a stage in life where I have more flexibility,” he said.

“I always knew this would need to be my life if I was going to do it. It’s probably one of the biggest photography projects ever attempted in the history of photography and there’s no other way to do it really other than throw yourself into it.”

Valentia Island RNLI Lifeboat Station marked the 100th station visited by photographer Jack Lowe. Pic: Valerie O’Sullivan

He develops the photographs in an old NHS ambulance he bought on eBay that he has converted into a darkroom.

His subjects yesterday were the two staff and 30 odd volunteers who make up the Valentia Island Lifeboat crew, a tradition on the island community that spans more than 150 years.

Once completed, the photographs will go on exhibition and he has already been approached by the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and other institutions.

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