Shipshape

Happy New Year, one and all! I trust that you’ve had a peaceful and enjoyable festive break?

At the start of 2015, after a long time in the planning, I find myself at a crux in my life: In just 10 days, I start The Lifeboat Station Project.

I’m excited and terrified in equal measures…

The Lifeboat Station Project

As many of you will already know, particularly those who follow my Instagram feed, The Lifeboat Station Project has been a fair while in the thinking and planning.

The main reason, you see, is that my mission ahead is not as straight forward as it could be.

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe

In the modern era, I could quite easily have grabbed a digital camera, captured the images on a cluster of memory cards and then sat in front of a computer for weeks prettying them all up.

However, you’ll also know by now that I’m not making this extraordinary body of work like that at all. I’m making the photographs on 10×12″ glass, just as the Victorians used to.

So, I’ve had to take great care in many ways — from liaising with the RNLI to ensure that they’re happy to receive Neena at every station to working out methods of safely transporting so much glass whilst on…

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The Midges that Died for Art

Last weekend — what with it being the summer holidays an’ all — I thought it would be fun to concoct an impromptu camping/photography expedition to Scotland with my younger son.

Stocked with food, chemicals and 110 year old cameras, we headed north from our home in Newcastle upon Tyne.

We had a ball, wild camping in Neena with wondrous sights aplenty…

Stag at Bridge of Orchy, Scotland

From Instagram: The sight that greeted us on our first night at Bridge of Orchy…

Thankfully, I had the foresight to pack insect nets and repellent; I’m all too aware of how the Scottish midge can turn a perfectly nice time into a humid, swarming trauma.

Sure enough, having settled down to make some photographs beside the stunning River Etive, clouds of the interminable bug descended as I poured my second plate.

At one point, I looked down at my gloved hands and I couldn’t see them — they’d literally come alive with a swarm of midges, looking like some kind of organic techno prop from a sci-fi movie.

It was time for a sharp exit but I had to finish making the plate before we could pack away and move on…

wet plate collodion process, tintype, large format

Glen Etive, Scotland (10×12″ Tintype), complete with embedded midges…

Pouring the 10×12″ Tintype, I was doing my best to keep the little critters from flying into the collodion.

Then it dawned on me — if I simply let them ‘do their thing’ I’d be making full use of this photographic process.

I’ve written before about capturing the weather in a glass plate. Now, I’d not only be creating a unique one-off photograph on metal, I’d also be capturing another important facet of the Scottish landscape — the midge!

Into the collodion they flew, ready for a lovely soak in a bath of silver nitrate. And so, it came to be that a handful of midges died in the name of art.

Now, to think of more ways to reduce their numbers…

wet plate collodion process, tintype, large format

The Midge: Dying for my art…

wet plate collodion process, tintype, large format

A tiny crop from the plate — not bad for a 110 year old Emil Busch brass lens!

For more recent work, check out the Gallery.

Neena, wet plate collodion process, ambulance, darkroom

From Instagram: Neena — mobile darkroom and bed for the night…

On the Telly

There’s excitement afoot but more on that later in the month.

In the meantime, whet your appetite with this short clip broadcast last night by the BBC Look North team. You’ll also discover why I made the Tintypes below…

Jack Lowe on the BBC

Click to see a short film on the BBC describing the beginnings of a new project…

Half Plate Tintype by Jack Lowe, wet plate collodion

BBC Look North reporter, Andrew Hartley, on a sunny day in Craster (Half Plate Tintype)

Half Plate Tintype by Jack Lowe, wet plate collodion

Tintype Selfie, lens cap opened for five elephants by assistant Robert (Half Plate Tintype)

Skye Glass

wet plate collodion process, half plate, ambrotype, large format

Julian Calverley working at Elgol on the Isle of Skye (Half Plate Ambrotype)

Two weeks ago, Julian Calverley invited me on an impromptu visit to the Isle of Skye, a stunningly beautiful wilderness in the far north of Scotland.

I’ve known Julian for a long time, I’ve made his edition prints for years. Now, I was presented with a new treat — to capture him in one of his favourite stomping grounds for a new book being released later in the year.

I could only seize the chance and, thus, the Ambrotype above was made.

No hiding…

Whilst working with wet plate collodion, I’ve come to adore and embrace the fact that everything within a plate tells a story.

Experienced collodionists are able to pore over a plate and know where things went well and where they went wrong, what worked and what didn’t.

For example, the waviness to the left of the photograph? That’s the wind at Elgol trying to have a say, blowing my collodion as I poured it onto the glass in the dawn breeze.

Not only have I recorded Julian working with his camera, I’ve also captured the weather.

So many elements of that early morning are now immortalised with a piece of glass and a box of chemicals. That’s beautiful to me. I love it.

wet plate collodion process, half plate, ambrotype, large format

Pouring collodion… (by Julian Calverley)

Working on location with this process can be physically gruelling as there’s simply so much paraphernalia. It’s a labour of love and you soon find out why there aren’t many people working on location in this way.

However, the rewards for all those efforts are wonderful and even just one or two great plates make it all worthwhile.

wet plate collodion process, half plate, ambrotype, large format

It’s no mean feat working in the field with wet plate collodion…

Online, it’s impossible to relay the experience of viewing an Ambrotype in the flesh.

As I’ve mentioned before, they carry entrancing three-dimensional qualities — almost holographic — leaving me with a sense that I’ve captured a slice of time, that I’ve actually created some kind of time capsule.

In short, the plates are unique, unreproducible and irreplaceable.

wet plate collodion process, half plate, ambrotype, large format

Undercover, probably working some magic… (by Julian Calverley)

wet plate collodion process, half plate, ambrotype, large format

My half plate 1905 Thornton and Pickard Imperial Perfekta — brass-bound mahogany joy…

wet plate collodion process, half plate, ambrotype, large format

Remember ‘Sketch for a Darkbox’? Click on the image to see what I mean…

Wet Plate Gallery

The eagle-eyed will have spotted that I’ve now created a Wet Plate Gallery in the menu bar at the top of the page.

Take a look to see some of my favourite plates so far. Watch this space for more soon and, remember, there’s no substitute for seeing them in the flesh…

wet plate collodion process, half plate, ambrotype, large format

A quick capture by Julian while I made his portrait…

New Platinum Print: Hérault Mountains

In the depths of Southern France there’s a scene that’s kept me entranced for many a lazy afternoon over the years…

Hérault Mountains, France, 1999, photographed by Jack Lowe

Hérault Mountains, France, 1999

I’ve photographed the view many times, even made a time lapse once, but none of them encapsulate the feelings evoked as neatly as this one.

Now available as a Platinum/Palladium print, Hérault Mountains joins a growing collection of photographs using this very traditional printing method — read more about the process by clicking here.

Hérault Mountains, France, 1999, photographed by Jack Lowe

Print detail…

If you’re thinking of buying any of my prints as Christmas gifts, please allow as much time as possible — now is a good time to order.

I do hold a small amount in stock but Platinum/Palladium prints such as these can take a little while to make.

If you would like to buy Hérault Mountains as a signed, numbered and embossed print, you can find it nestled here in my Platinum Collection.

Hérault Mountains, France, 1999, photographed by Jack Lowe

New Print: Peel Island

In August last year, I wrote a post entitled The Lake District and I.

One of the photographs from that camping trip has always stuck in my mind — the view over Peel Island (of Swallows and Amazons fame) on Coniston Water.

Peel Island, Coniston Water, 2012 by Jack Lowe

Over a year on, I’ve finally made the time to work on the print of this photograph, one that encapsulates so many of my experiences and feelings about the Lake District.

Largely, as you can see from the sky, I guess those feelings tend to revolve around an imminent drenching.

Indeed, at the time, I mentioned beauty in dankness.

For those who don’t know — if you’re vaguely dry in the Lake District, it’s about to rain. If you’re soaked to the skin, it’s raining already…

If you’d like a stunning signed, numbered and embossed Archival Pigment Print of this photograph, you can purchase yours from my Lake District Collection.

England, Scotland and Berwick

Almost as far North as you can possibly journey within the bounds of England lies Berwick upon Tweed, nestled just a couple of miles from the Scottish border.

On Saturday, I made the 65 mile rail journey north with a friend to see Paul Kenny’s latest show open at The Berwick Watchtower.

As we wandered the streets of this garrison town, the sensations we experienced were odd and uneasy, enough for us to discuss it regularly throughout the day…

The mouth of the River Tweed — Berwick on the left to the North East and Tweedmouth on the right to the South West...

The mouth of the River Tweed — Berwick on the left to the North East and Tweedmouth on the right to the South West…

On the face of it, Berwick is pretty. However, it doesn’t take too long to sense a melancholy and fatigue hanging over the town.

There are small pockets where this isn’t the case but, overall, Berwick certainly appears to be a very northern outpost burdened with a tangible raw edge, perhaps the bleeding edge of the ongoing economic crisis.

Buildings look tired with many high street shops closing or, indeed, closed down. Local estate agents, too, seem awash with property for sale.

There is, however, plenty to admire as some of the architecture is stunning, not least the beautifully named Royal Border Bridge — a vital artery carrying the East Coast Mainline, connecting this remote town at high speed with the rest of the country.

The Royal Tweed bridge over the River Tweed, joining Berwick upon Tweed with Tweedmouth

The Royal Tweed road bridge — an East Coast Mainline train heads to London over the Royal Border Bridge in the distance…

To my mind, Berwick’s outpost feel is largely due to its geography, eclectic history and confused identity where, in the modern era, one can still be left wondering, “Is Berwick Scottish or English?”

Embroiled in bitter, bloody border wars for so many years, it’s hard to know.

The Tweed boils beneath the Old Bridge at Berwick upon Tweed

The Tweed boils beneath the Old Bridge…

Technically, Berwick is English after the most recent capture in 1482 but that’s not always been the case.

In fact, it was even recently pondered whether or not Berwick was technically at war with Russia after it was ‘left out’ of the conclusion to the Crimean War in the 1856 Treaty of Paris!

Perhaps you can now begin to see why I describe an eclectic history?

Not helping matters, Berwick Rangers FC remains the only English football club in the land to compete in the Scottish Football League.

Railway Street, Berwick upon Tweed

My kinda street…

All-in-all, an unconventional day out and one to get the cogs turning.

Paul’s show, of course, look resplendent — his Seaworks so appropriately on display at the coast.

Ultimately, though, it was time to journey home and leave this very northern outpost behind, carrying plenty of feelings to digest and thoughts to ponder about this quirky nation of ours…

Berwick upon Tweed Railway Station

Home time — a train rushes through the pretty railway station at Berwick upon Tweed…