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.