A photograph of a big wave hitting a lighthouse has been making the rounds on the internet for a number of years. The picture appears to show a lighthouse keeper in a doorway as the water crashes into the opposite side of the structure.
It even appeared in an online advertisement that read: “These Nature Photos Have Not Been Edited”:
This is a real photograph. A larger version was available on Reddit.
The name of the lighthouse is La Jument. It’s located off the Brittany coast in France and was built between 1904 and 1911. The picture was named, “Phares dans la Tempete, La Jument,” which means “Lighthouse in a Storm, at La Jument.”
The lighthouse keeper standing in the doorway was Theodore Malgorn. He survived the wave that day.
In a video interview reuniting Guichard and Malgorn, Malgorn was asked what he remembered from the moment seen in the photograph:
“I didn’t know a huge wave was coming,” Malgorn answered. “When it hit, I jumped back in. You can’t hang around.”
Guichard asked if he had opened the door because he heard the helicopter. “Yes, I was curious,” Malgorn answered. “Normally, you wouldn’t go out,” Guichard said. Malgorn responded that “no, it was a one-off.”
The photographer presented the former lighthouse keeper with a signed and framed print of the now-famous picture.
According to the two men and other accounts of the story, the last year La Jument had a lighthouse keeper was 1991. Celtic Countries published that “lighthouses in Brittany have been automated in the past decades and La Jument itself has no longer a keeper since 1991.”
A number of other similar photographs of waves hitting the lighthouse are available on Getty Images, but perhaps none has the powerful feeling that Guichard captured on Dec. 21, 1989.
According to Elinor De Wire, the author of “The Lightkeepers’ Menagerie,” Malgorn “had nearly 40 years in the French lighthouse service.”
In 2015, De Wire blogged of Malgorn that “he is undoubtedly retired by now and enjoying well-deserved quieter days.”
In sum, the photograph is real. A photographer was in the right place at the right time, hovering in a helicopter above the historic La Jument lighthouse off the coast of France.