Digest>Archives> July 2001

Photographer Who Shot the Wave Appears at Lighthouse Depot

By Kathleen Finnegan

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For the first time ever in the United States, the famous French photographer, Jean Guichard, made an official personal appearance to autograph his world famous lighthouse prints at Lighthouse Depot in Wells, Maine.

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He is best known for his explosive “Wave” photograph of a lighthouse off the coast of Brittany, France, showing a keeper at the door about to be engulfed by a titanic wave. The photograph is truly one of the most recognizable lighthouse photographs in the world. When first seeing the famous photograph, most people assume that the lighthouse keeper must have been killed.

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In fact, the keepers had been living in fear of death during the 1989 storm and at one point had taken refuge in the lantern room of the tower. Waves the night before had smashed through the lower windows of the tower, causing the structure to flood, washing away everything in its path including the television, table, chairs, coffee maker and even the refrigerator. The keepers in fact were waiting to be rescued by helicopter.

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As Jean Guichard’s helicopter approached the tower he was unaware that the keepers were waiting for a rescue helicopter. Guichard was simply there to take photographs of the waves pounding the structure. The keepers heard the sound of the helicopter and naturally assumed it was the rescue helicopter. One of the keepers opened the lower door of the structure and as he looked up at the helicopter and realized that it was not the rescue chopper, he also realized that a giant wave was about to engulf the tower. He immediately turned about and pulled the door closed behind him. Had he not done so at that second, he surely would have been killed. While all this was happening, Jean Guichard was busy taking photographs as fast as he could click the camera, thus capturing on film the most dramatic action shots ever taken at a lighthouse.

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“Since the lighthouses are now automated and no longer have any lighthouse keepers, these photos are now also of historic value and with Guichard’s autograph are sure to become a wonderful collectible,” said Tim Harrison of Lighthouse Depot, where Guichard was appearing.

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Even two of the local TV stations showed up to film Guichard’s autograph signing at Lighthouse Depot. He was interviewed by several reporters and appeared on several newscasts during his visit to Lighthouse Depot.

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During his visit to the United States Guichard plans to photograph east coast lighthouses and spend a little time introducing some of his new French lighthouse posters. His new book on French lighthouses and written in French will be available shortly from Lighthouse Depot. It is hoped that there will be an English version of the book in the near future.

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This story appeared in the July 2001 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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