You’ve probably seen this clickbait photo hovering around articles you’re reading, between the celebrities who don’t age well and the lady whose trick horrifies surgeons. It’s such a compelling picture, I decided to find out what it was.
The photo is of a keeper of a lighthouse in Brittany called “La Jument”. I’ll let this very well-researched article from the ‘Pedia tell the story…
The lighthouse became well known in 1989, through a series of photographs taken by Jean Guichard.
Over the past century La Jument lighthouse has effectively increased maritime safety in the area, known to the Bretons as Mer d’Iroise or Iroise Sea. However, the waters off Brittany’s west coast still remain one of the most dangerous seas in Europe with frequent violent storms, huge waves and strong currents.
One of those infamous storms on the Iroise Sea happened on 21 December 1989. A front of low pressure coming from Ireland brought gale force winds and huge waves of 20 to 30 metres high which crashed spectacularly against the lighthouse.
The waves smashed through the lower windows of the lighthouse, ripped the front door, flooded the tower and washed away the furniture.
About the same time, photographer Jean Guichard was in Lorient hiring a helicopter to take aerial pictures of the storm. Guichard wanted to fly over the Iroise Sea despite extremely dangerous flying conditions.
The helicopter made it to La Jument and hovered around for Guichard to take shots of the waves pounding the lighthouse. Inside the tower, Théodore Malgorn heard the helicopter and went downstairs to see what was going on.
At that very moment, a giant wave rose over the rear of the lighthouse and Guichard took his world-famous shot as the wave smashed against the tower. Théodore Malgorn, suddenly realising that a giant wave was about to engulf the structure, rushed back inside just in time to save his life. In an interview he said If I had been a little further away from the door, I would not have made it back into the tower. And I would be dead today. You cannot play with the sea. “Hätte ich ein wenig weiter von der Tür weg gestanden, hätte ich es nicht mehr in den Turm zurückgeschafft. Und ich wäre heute tot. Mit dem Meer darf man nicht spielen”
Jean Guichard’s 1989 dramatic storm photo shots became an instant hit and earned him the World Press Photo award. La Jument appeared on newspapers and magazines all around the world and Guichard went on to publish a best selling book about lighthouses and a collection of poster prints.
La Jument’s poster print has sold well over one million copies, making the Breton lighthouse the most famous lighthouse print in the world.
Lighthouses in Brittany have been automated in the past decades and La Jument itself hasn’t had a keeper since 1991. For many years Jean Guichard’s quest was to portray Brittany’s maritime heritage before automation took over. Many of his photos are now considered to hold a historic value and his work is highly respected in Brittany.