My New Ambulance

It’s been a curve-curve ball of a week…

A while back you may remember that I was inspired by the work and adventures of Ian Ruhter who makes huge Tintypes in The States using his old blue van as a giant camera — a van he affectionately calls The Time Machine.

If you haven’t seen his now-famous Silver & Light video, I’ll include it at the bottom of this post for you. Watch it. You’ll love it.

At the beginning of my own journey in wet plate collodion, I’ve been fantasising about the kind of vehicle I might own one day to use as a mobile darkroom. So, I’ve been keeping a weather eye focussed on eBay to get an idea of what’s out there for when the time comes.

As you might imagine, there’s a plethora of weird and wonderful machines available. Two weeks ago, a decommissioned NHS ambulance came up for sale and I knew instantly that it would be perfect but, in all honesty, the timing felt too soon.

Mournfully, I watched it slip away — sold to some lucky buyer who I now envied…

Envy isn’t a pleasant emotion, so I quickly expelled the memory from my consciousness and endeavoured to move on. I managed that until eBay sent me a tantalising email stating:

“An item you were watching has been relisted.”

Shucks. Now it felt like destiny. The urge was strong to see if I could possibly bring this wondrous vehicle into my life. And thus, to cut a long story short and after a marathon return trip to Cheltenham yesterday, it became so.

This vehicle — shortly to be my wet plate collodion darkroom — is simply incredible. A ready-made lab on wheels. It’s built solidly, crammed with loads of  gadgets and has effortlessly awakened childhood memories (mainly involving Lego, toy cars and Ghostbusters).

The previous owners named it Neena — get it?

Anyway, I can’t wait for the adventures that lie ahead. Here it is — my new ambulance:

Jack Lowe's Ambulance / Wet Plate Collodion Darkroom

Jack Lowe's Ambulance / Wet Plate Collodion DarkroomJack Lowe's Ambulance / Wet Plate Collodion Darkroom

Jack Lowe's Ambulance / Wet Plate Collodion Darkroom

Jack Lowe's Ambulance / Wet Plate Collodion Darkroom

Jack Lowe's Ambulance / Wet Plate Collodion Darkroom

Jack Lowe's Ambulance / Wet Plate Collodion Darkroom

As promised, Ian Ruhter’s Silver & Light:

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  1. Amazing Jack! Congratulations! It’s perfect, loads of gadgets and storage – definitely meant to be. And rather fitting – from those wet plate collodionists driving their wagons through the battlefields of the Crimea to a 20th(?) century life-saver that now has a new purpose – to assist in the capturing of 21st century life! Look forward to seeing it and the work you produce. Best Wishes, Jane P.S Definitely keep Neena – brilliant!

    1. Thank you, Jane. Yes, there are certainly parallels to be drawn with the early itinerant photographers.

      Neena (a name that seems to be embedded now) is not quite as old as 20th Century but not far away — she’s a 2003 model… 😉

      Best wishes,


    1. Yes, having a lot of appreciation for the name. Think it will have to stay! Thanks for your interest. Jack

  2. Reblogged this on The Lifeboat Station Project and commented:

    Over the next few days, I’ll be posting news of the inaugural itinerary for the Lifeboat Station Project.

    In the meantime, I’ve been asked many a question about Neena, my decommissioned NHS ambulance and mobile Wet Plate Collodion darkroom.

    With that in mind, I thought you might like to see this post I wrote earlier in the year — the week Neena came into my life:

  3. […] Modern versions of Fentons Photographic van have already been made by quite a few photographers that are active in the wet plate world, Anton Orlovs Photopalace bus, Brian Scaddens Wet Plate Wagon, Craig Tuffins Caravan darkroom, and Jack Lowes converted ambulance Neena. […]