AN RNLI photography exhibition, featuring images of lifeboats taken by the Beken family of Cowes, will open at Poole Museum next week.

Entitled Calm Before the Storm: The Art of Photographing Lifeboats, the exhibition also features glass plate images of current crews taken by Jack Lowe, who travels from station to station in an ambulance converted into a darkroom.

Halfway through his eight-year odyssey, Jack — the grandson of Dad's Army star Arthur Lowe — has already visited the Isle of Wight to photograph local lifeboat crews.

The exhibition will take visitors on a journey from the lifeboat builders of the early 20th Century to the faces of the brave volunteers who crew the high-tech lifeboats of today.

Included in the exhibition are never-before-seen images from the historic archive of the Island's famous Beken family, who have been photographing maritime activity on the waters surrounding the Isle of Wight since the turn of the century.

Three generations of Beken men – Frank, Keith, Kenneth – first made their name capturing spectacular yachts racing on the Solent. They modified their cameras to enable them to use them on the water and photographed countless famous vessels, including King George V’s racing yacht Britannia and the Titanic.

Kenneth said: "My grandfather Frank had to invent his own new style of camera, a twin lens device that enabled him to hold it at arm’s length and absorb all the movement of his boat and the yacht he was photographing.

"He wasn’t the first photographer, but he was a great innovator. He couldn’t fire the shutter with his thumb or fingers, because it jerked the camera, so he built a rubber tube which he put in his mouth, with a big rubber ball on the end that he would bite, and that would fire the shutter. People laughed, but the image of him with his camera became famous at the time."

The Beken family also photographed lifeboats, many of which were built on the Isle of Wight. The Bekens captured lifeboats at the very start of their working lives, before they went onto to save thousands of lives at stations around the coast – and even on the beaches of Dunkirk during World War Two.

The free exhibition opens on Saturday, January 26, and runs until April 22.