Monday, April 23, 2007

La Jument – Jean Guichard

When I was in college, there was a picture on a wall in my friends’ house of a lighthouse. We spent hours staring at that picture. On more than one occasion people debated weather the picture was real or if it was some digitally enhanced print. The image of a lone lighthouse in the middle of the ocean being pummeled by an explosive, gigantic wave is breathtaking to say the least. What was even more spectacular is the fact that there is a man standing at the base of the lighthouse, in front of the door, only moments away from being smothered by the magnificent wave. We wondered where this lighthouse was, who took the picture, who was man in the lighthouse, and if he actually survived? The only way he could have is if he turned around and closed the door right after the picture was taken. I once dated a girl, an exchange student. She came over to our place, saw the picture, and claimed to know where it was taken. She said it was at a light house near her home town near Brittany, France. But we could not really know for sure. This picture turned out to be a source of some amazing conversations and a limitless horizon where our imaginations could run wild, especially after smoking a few.

Yesterday while walking though IKEA I saw a print of this picture for sale. It brought back to the surface a flood of memories that had long since settled in the bottom of my mind. It was only 10 years ago when we sat around shrouded by the mystery of this fantastical image. It could have been from another world for all we knew. 1996, before we knew what the internet was. This morning I came into work, I could not remember the name of the artist I saw on the picture at IKEA yesterday so I typed a short description of it into Google, ‘man standing lighthouse huge wave’ and I came across more information than I could process. It turns out that the French girl was right. This series of pictures entitled ‘La Jument’ was taken by the photographer Jean Guichard during a storm in 1989 off the coast of Brittany, France. The lighthouse keepers were seeking refuge from the storm in fear of their lives in the towers lantern. Guichard’s focus at the time was lighthouses and he happened to be in the area taking photographs of this particular tower during the brutal storm. One of the keepers, Théodore Malgorne, thinking the chopper outside was the rescue team opened the door and took a look. Guichard was right there to capture the scene in a series of seven photographs. Malgorne turned around in time to close the door before being swept away by the humongous waves. The chances of safely capturing such an event must be a more than billion to one! You can read more about it here.

For at least a year this picture was pinned up on the wall and we never grew tired of it. That question mark it represented kept the image fresh for us and kind of immortalized it. And here, only 10 years later by just typing a series of 5 words on my keypad I lay to rest a decades worth of speculation, interest, and intrigue. Some of you may be reading this as a positive thing and others can sense some nostalgic loss. Do you think the internet and access to all this information is actually making us wiser and smarter in the long run or limiting our need to reach for answers, hunger to satisfy our curiosity, and fuel for our imaginations?

ps~i am applying Malin's advice to my post layouts... is it better?

1 comment:

rafuki said...

I'm amazed by your story. I've just landed on your blog after making a fast research on the jaw-dropping image of this lighthouse and its keeper :)
I used a feature on google images in which you can search the web for similar images to the one you've got.
I had the url of a low definition photo, but ended knowing all about it, and even reading a personal experience starred by this picture.
In reply to your question I'd say that having almost any information available in a couple of clicks, is interesting but makes us fully depend on this technology.
I'd never have known nothing about this picture without the internet, but I really made no big effort to find out. So this achievement has no big merit.

Thank you for sharing your story :)