PENARTH LIFEBOAT CREWS CAPTURED ON PLATE-GLASS BY GRANDSON OF DAD’S ARMY STAR

Vintage photography expert Jack Lowe with a freshly shot and freshly developed glass-plate photograph of lifeboat crewman Ben

Vintage photography expert Jack Lowe with a freshly shot and freshly developed glass-plate photograph of lifeboat crewman Ben Evans – who is himself a top photographer.

A unique plate-glass photographic record of all the UK and Irish  lifeboat stations and their crews (including Penarth’s)  is being created by an expert in vintage Victorian photography – Jack Lowe – grandson of Dad’s Army star, the late Arthur Lowe.

Jack Lowe is touring the coast photographing lifeboat crews using techniques which date back  to 1854 – almost to the dawn of photography –  but which produces images with a quality and a character that can’t be matched, even by today’s digital cameras.

Jack Lowe with his 1905 vintage 12-inch by 10-inch plate camera . There no shutter button to press - you just take the lens cap off to take the picture - wait a few seconds and then pop the cap back on.

Jack Lowe with his 1905 vintage 12-inch by 10-inch plate camera . There is no shutter button to press – you just take the lens cap off to take the picture – wait a few seconds  – and then pop the cap back on.

 

With the colloidal chemistry involved in making blank plates and developing and fixing the image there  are, of course, no digitial pixels, no negatives and no grain.

The final finished photograph is always  the one that was actually in the camera when the picture was taken  – inextricably linking the subject and the image together.

In his mobile darkroom - an ex-ambulance - Jack works on his plates under red light - to which photographic plates are not sensitive

In his mobile darkroom – an ex-ambulance – Jack works on his plates under red light – to which these types of photographic plates are not sensitive

In a mobile darkroom – converted from an old NHS ambulance – Jack mixes the chemicals, coats them on his own glass plates, takes the pictures on a 1905 vintage bellows-style plate camera,  develops the exposed plates n site and then fixes them – to make them permanent.

In his mobile darkroom - an ex-ambulance a clear glass plate is coated with the colloidal light-sensitive chemicals which will capture the light from the subject.

In his mobile darkroom – an ex-ambulance a clear glass plate is coated with the collodion light-sensitive chemicals which will capture the light from the subject.

It’s the equivalent of making your own film from scratch, taking each carefully composed photograph with the subject standing stock still, and then developing the chemically coated glass plates to create a transparent plate bearing the final – positive –  image.

The process is called “wet-plate collodion” . The collodion carries a salt called cadmium, bromide which is deposited on the clear surface of the glass and sets on it .  After exposyure the plate goes into a bath of silver nitrate . The silver combines with the salt to  produce the halides which create the image. Thew only snag is that the entire process, from coating the clear glass to developing the ifnal image has to be done within about 10 minutes .

In the final stage of development the plate - which is a negative becomes a positive as the chemical fixer is poured onto

In the final stage of development the plate – which is a negative –  becomes a positive as the chemical fixer is poured onto it . 150 years on, it still looks like magic

As in all cameras the developed positive image is inverted – but just needs to be turned over  and viewed from the “wrong” side to see the subject properly.

The results are totally unlike today’s photographs and seem to imbue  an innate feel and character to them – creating a direct link between today’s generation of lifeboat crews and their Victorian predecessors who also had their portraits on similar equipment

The final image is revealed and washed in broad daylight

The final image is revealed and washed in broad daylight. The image is the “wrong  way round” and will be viewed from the other side of the plate..

Jack Lowe is the grandson of Dad’s Army star Arthur Lowe – the Dad’s Army star who, unbeknownst to most people, was also a keen mariner and owned a large classic pre-war steam yacht called Amazon on which Jack spent some time during his childhood.

Jack is keeping alive the techniques and skills developed by the pioneers of photography more than a century a half ago. His quest to record all of Britain’s lifeboat stations using what many regard as still-unsurpassed Victorian technology is creating a unique catalogue of images which – once each plate has been developed and fixed and is dry – are sure to become historical documents in their own right.

As many of the Penarth Lifeboat's crew-members as were availalbe gathered together to pose for a group plate-camera shot at the lifeboat station tonight

As many of the Penarth Lifeboat’s team as were available gathered together tonight to pose for a group plate-camera shot at the lifeboat station – wearing RNLI navy jerseys , just as their predecessor did.

After today’s visit to Penarth, Jack Lowe is  calling in at Horton and Port-Eynon, Broad Haven, Fishguard, Cardigan and New Quay, and he will complete his project at Aberystwyth on September 24th.

 

About NewsNet

Penarth Daily News email address dmj@newsnet.uk . Penarth Daily News is an independent free on-line fair and balanced news service published by NewsNet Ltd covering the town of Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, UK. All our news items are based on the information we receive or discover at the time of publication and are published on the basis that they are accurate to the best of our knowledge and belief at that time.
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4 Responses to PENARTH LIFEBOAT CREWS CAPTURED ON PLATE-GLASS BY GRANDSON OF DAD’S ARMY STAR

  1. Essie says:

    What an amazing story and completely fascinating. A real pleasure to see old techniques utilised and respected in place of mobile phones and the rest of it. So grateful people like Jack Lowe exist – makes me think life hasn’t become all about X Factor and Instagram. Brilliant, thank you.

  2. Peter Church says:

    Why don’t you take the photos on your mobile phone like the rest of us?
    Excellent, I was just wondering who would spot that first!!

  3. Mgg says:

    Well interesting

  4. AK says:

    Fantastic – and of course another great way to raise money in support of the RNLI.

    The photo should still be around in another 100 years. So many times I hear the cry ‘I’ve lost my mobile phone and all my photographs’.

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