Thursday, January 3rd 2019
I fell asleep at about 3:15am last night because of my long afternoon nap. I just laid in bed, and did a lot of thinking. There was nothing I felt like watching or reading in the end. And I got up at 9am this morning instead of 7 as planned. Only three days into the new year and I already have bad sleeping habits. Something I must improve immediately. I’m gonna get a shower, have a cup of coffee and smoke a joint. But first, I gotta do a bit of gym or I’ll never start.
Today I wanted to talk about my new projects which I’ve now mentioned a few times. But before doing that, I’d like to add some context. I started my photography career in 2015 with my first long-term project — #ophelieandthegirls. I didn’t know anything about camera back then but I had just been gifted with my grand-dad’s Canon EOS 700 and felt so privileged to call his camera mine that I had to honour it. I wasn’t sure what to photograph, and so I casted three girls for my first photoshoot to see whether that’d be something I’d enjoy doing. If not, I could always try something else. Long story short, this photoshoot was the best decision of my life and a true revelation. #ophelieandthegirls has been my everything for four incredible years. I’ve achieved many of my goals in a short period of time and I’ll forever be grateful to my grand-mother for changing my life around by giving me that camera. I was in a very dark place at the time, dealing with severe post-natal depression, and her gesture has quite literally saved me.
Fast forward to the day I turned 30 — June 5th, 2017. I had been having doubts about whether to push #ophelieandthegirls to its full potential by launching a platform, or to put an end to the project. For months. And it’s on that day specifically that I chose to stop. To put it all behind me so that I could develop a new vision, using different methods. I couldn’t be more sure of my decision and that’s why I went back to being @ophelierondeau on Instagram. Fast forward again, this time to September 12th, 2017, when I received an email that changed everything re: moving on from #ophelieandthegirls.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the client’s name. How could I quit when I’m starting to attract that kind of clients? I couldn’t miss this opportunity and so quickly changed back to @ophelieandthegirls on instagram — I like to make things official, and that’s one way for me to do it. At that time, I had no idea it would take 7 months to complete this job. 7 months of endless proposals, back and forth emails, phone meetings, fashion shows, location scouting, model casting, more proposals, repeated changes of schedule, rate negotiations, contracts, and so on. These 7 months have been the most stressful and exhausting months of my career and have broken me down. I was never sure I got the job until two days before the start of the production when my flights were finally booked. Until then, I had no idea if I was wasting my time and energy or if it would be worth it in the end. I was pushing through everyday, fuelled with hope. I turned down other opportunities to focus on this one. And it finally paid off. I photographed Miu Miu SS18 digital campaign. Not only that — I was given full creative freedom. They wanted my vision, my signature style. And that, that is the most rewarding thing of all.
The deadline for this campaign was two days after the photoshoot. I was moving a week later exactly, yet nothing was packed — we hadn’t even started. What I didn't see coming was the panic attack I experienced in the middle of packing the 150m2 of accumulated junk. I had to take a break for a couple of days in order to sort myself out. I had never had a panic attack before and so it was extremely overwhelming. I moved to London filled with anxiety and didn’t enjoy my last few days in Berlin at all. A couple of days quickly turned into a couple of weeks, then a couple of months. I had the financial means to produce a ton of new work but not the health or strength required which has been exceedingly frustrating. My relationship was also turning into shit. I didn’t understand how I could be so low after having been at the highest I had ever been. The pressure that resulted from the guilt of not being able to do my job was absolutely unbearable. I felt like I was losing everything. I felt like I was failing. I had to react fact and act even faster.
That’s when I reconsidered #ophelieandthegirls one more time. I had successfully done the Miu Miu job, and now what? I came to the conclusion that I still didn’t want to continue this project. Eventually, I went back to @ophelierondeau on instagram, the other username being too restrictive. Yet another change. But this time it was different. I felt like I had reached a decent point of satisfaction towards my achievements and could happily move on. And I did — after a long summer break during which I indulged in a lot of self-care and family time.
July 2018. I went to the French Alps where I reunited with my entire maternal family for a week — parents, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, etc… We were approximatively 30, all sleeping in the chalet where my grand-parents used to stay decades ago. There we went for long walks, bathed in mountain lakes, did some rafting down the river and drank a lot of good wine. There’s nothing like breathing some real fresh air and walk in a complete silence. I used to hate hiking, but I start to appreciate it as I grow older. Landscapes are breathtaking and inspiring, and I’d love to bring a team with me someday.
However it was during this holiday that I discovered my fear of heights. I have been high up on countless occasions in my life, from roller coasters to viaducts via ski lifts and even grand landscapes similar to the ones in the Alps. But for the first time, being high felt horrendous. The journey up the mountain in the cable car will always be one of my worst memories, and that time when we walked on a thin trail right by a gigantic cliff... makes me shiver just writing about it. Seeing my 5 year-old daughter in that kind of environment was terrifying. But overall, being in the middle of nowhere was a fantastic way of switching off for a moment and I would happily escape for a few days to do that again soon.
When I returned to London, I felt better, but not fully healed yet — it took another couple of months before I could be myself again. But it wasn’t as bad as it was at the beginning. This time I was able to work a little bit, which is when my researches began. My mind was cleared and ideas were flowing in. Developing a new body of work is like starting a new job. It’s just as exciting and refreshing. Unfortunately I didn’t anticipate how tough it would be to choose a new project to work on. I’ve been used to doing the same thing since day one, therefore it has been difficult to do things differently — just like it is to get out of any kind of habit. At one point I was lacking all confidence towards my new ideas and even considered going back to shooting for #ophelieandthegirls. It seemed like the easiest option at the time, but thankfully I overcame my doubts. Today, I know exactly what I want to do and what I’ll be doing for the next three years. And I’m gonna be talking about all of that tomorrow.