Monday, June 11, 2007

Safety shoes

In 1973, an audiovisual firm in Paris hired me to make a publicity product for a manufacturer of industrial safety shoes, Jallatte. The founder, Pierre Jallate, had set up his shoe factory in a splendid 17th-century military fort built by Vauban in the isolated village of Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort in the Cévennes, north of Montpellier.

I was given a selection of Jallatte products [which I would later wear, personally, for years], and my aim was to take photos of these shoes being worn in various working environments, particularly on construction sites.

Besides their functional role of protecting the feet of workers, Jallatte shoes have always been elegant and fashionable. So I tried to get this message across in my photos.

The French cartoonist Denis Dugas collaborated with me on the Jallatte project. He created montages in which photos of shoes were placed in humorous decors.

As you can see, we went to great lengths to illustrate the merits of Jallatte safety shoes. And I believe that the chief, charismatic 54-year-old Pierre Jallatte, was pleased with our audiovisual creation.

Recently, the new owners of the company [which has always remained a world leader in the manufacture of safety shoes] started to talk about delocalizing the Jallatte factory in Tunisia. Last Friday, 88-year-old Pierre Jallatte refused to accept the idea that local workers would lose their jobs, and that his famous factory in the ancient fort might cease to exist. In his home in Nîmes, he pointed a rifle at his head and pulled the trigger.


  1. I heard about it today on the radio. It's awful.

    By the way, I like the image with the dinosaurs!

  2. The act of the founder of the Jallatte company was terribly noble, in an antiquated sense... like the man himself. While I've never "admired" the concept of suicide (a silly way of putting things), I've always respected certain grand instances of this definitive deed... which do not include the brainless operations of self-destructive terrorists. For example: the self-inflicted deaths of Arthur Koestler and his wife Cynthia in 1983. But I've never been particularly hara-kiri, and I would prefer to end my earthly existence by getting run over by a locomotive rather than by blowing my brains out with a shotgun. It's a fact, though, that I was most impressed, as a child, when I learned that the patriarch of nearby Caramana station [a handful of people will recognize the grand old man of whom I am speaking] put his head in a bag (a gracious detail) and blew his brains out with a shotgun. But I do not wish to attempt to generalize the sense of such isolated acts.

    Concerning the humorous montage of Denis Dugas, I've been thinking about the idea of incorporating the nine documents in my possession, along with all my Jallatte photos, into a tiny website dedicated to the memory of the man of Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort. If and when things calm down [concerning the future of the enterprise], I should maybe ask permission to do so from the family and friends of Pierre Jallatte. Or maybe I should build my website immediately, without consulting anybody...

  3. Pour Lacan, la vie est du domaine de la foi (il ne faisait bien évidemment pas allusion aux actes terroristes) : "Si on n’était pas solidement appuyé sur cette certitude que ça finira… est-ce que vous pourriez supporter cette histoire ?"

    Il considérait le suicide, à la fois, comme un "acte lâche" et comme le "seul acte réussi" - par opposition à tous les actes manqués de la vie.

    Un film (stupide, si on le regarde au premier degré, mais assez intéressant si on le prend au troisième) illustre, à mon avis, assez bien ses propos : Harold and Maude.

    Désolée d’écrire en français, mais je ne peux pas parler de Lacan en anglais.