Yesterday we went to the most amazing photography exhibition set up by a member of the RNLI. Nigel Millard decided to take photos of the danger faced by the crew and set up Courage on our Coasts to promote them.
The photos were all set out in the middle of Media city in Manchester, open to the elements. This may seem like a strange thing to do for a photography exhibition, exposing the amazing work to the elements and also perhaps putting people off to visiting it. After all how many people want to stand in the rain studying photos. There was a reason for this however. They deliberately set the gallery up outside so they could create a more immediate feel of the terrible conditions the RNLI have to face when they are risking their lives for us. Imagine standing looking at an incredible photo, depicturing a giant wave crashing down on a tiny boat with the RNLI crew on. Viewing it in a gallery you would be shocked and impressed. But there would be something distancing you from the image, the contrast of these heroes battling through the water and weather and you standing in a echoing warm room. Stand in the outdoors however and the true feeling is reinforced. Pelted by rain you re connected to the photo and you can feel the emotion so much more. Therefore it was slightly disappointing that the weather stayed reasonably bright when I went to visit the exhibition.
But no matter, the photos were phenomenal: you were hurled into this dangerous world. The photos were displayed in a giant format, increasing the relationship between the viewer and photo.
Each photo was unique and perfect in telling the story of these brave, incredible souls. The colours were vibrant and intense, the camera settings perfect to capture these dangerous moments. Fast shutter speeds and high ISO created photos that were almost impossible to forget. He used extreme sharpness to capture minute detail and wide aperture to generate a feeling of being lashed with rain.
As well as showing the harsh conditions the RNLI face, there were also portrait photos of the crew showing us that these are normal people with families who are risking their lives. There was a huge contrast of the crew and the terrific weather, using a wide angle setting to reinforce the ferocity of the natural forces.
There were so many breathtaking photos that it was hard to choose a favourite but this one really stands out for me.
Five crew members walking along the snowy beach with Bamburgh castle in the background. The snow falling evokes an extremely powerful emotion, the photo composed so the eye leads along the crew and to Bamburgh castle. The castle perhaps acts as a full stop so the eye can wander and take in the rest of the photo.
I love the contrast of the piece, photos are moments caught in time, but sometimes you witness something that breaks the barriers of a photograph, something that tells the story of these brave people, the conditions they face. They could just be normal people walking along the beach, but you don’t need to see the uniform to know that they are more.
These are people who risk their lives all the time, normal people, like you or me and what I find sickening is that the government only give them 2% funding. How can the government give millions of pounds to many things that aren’t important but ignore the people who risk their lives for us on a daily basis. I wasn’t sure how many people died every year from drowning, when I went to the exhibit. But I was staggered to learn that annually 1.2 million people drown.
I hope this photography exhibition serves to show us the terror and conditions they face for us, I hope people can see that these people need our support and the governments. And that in this world of reality tv stars and celebrities that these people are the real heroes.
Please look at the RNLI website and read the tales of survivors. http://rnli.org/aboutus/lifeboatsandstations/Pages/Rescue-testimonials2.aspx
And if you want to see this amazing exhibition and live in Great Britain and Ireland see if the exhibition will be near you http://rnli.org/howtosupportus/otherwaystohelp/Pages/courage-on-our-coasts.aspx