Death of Jacques Gourmelen
© Jacques Gourmelen / Ouest-France
“The Photo of the 20th Century” for people from the Brittany region of France.
“If I had to choose one photo from the book La Bretagne des photographes, it would be the one taken by Jacques Gourmelen. For me, it is the region’s photo of the century. Its meaning is powerful: the aspiration to dignity.
On April 6, 1972 in Saint-Brieuc, a town in Brittany, the workers from the company Joint Français went on strike. The CRS (French riot police) moved in. Face to face, are Guy Burmieux, a worker, and Jean-Yvon Antignac, a riot policeman. Jacques Gourmelen, the photographer, was covering local news for the newspaper Ouest-France.
“I took the photo on instinct. Burniaux had recognized his old friend and classmate,” said the photographer to his colleague Véronique Constance, on the 40th anniversary of this legendary strike. “I saw him go toward his friend and grab him by the collar. He wept with rage and told him, ‘Go ahead and hit me while you’re at it!’ The other one didn’t move a muscle.”
“I was one of the workers on strike,” Burmieux told Ouest-France. “We were getting paid next to nothing, working 47 hours a week... We had locked up three of the company’s directors. We spent the night on the premises, drinking endless cups of coffee. In the morning, the atmosphere was electric. According to the police, the guys from the CRS section 13 who were the first on the scene. And I recognized Jean-Yvon! We were in school together at the Lycée Curie. We were the class clowns, we were inseparable.”
A few months after the 40th anniversary of this picture, Jacques Gourmelen passed away. His funeral was held on May 30, 2012, at the Notre-Dame de Cesson church in Saint-Brieuc.