Friday, January 4th 2019
I woke up and got up at 7am. Today is my last day of freedom before Coco comes back from Joseph’s parents and so I don’t have time to snooze my alarm repeatedly. I have a lot to do today, and not enough time to do it. Really wish there was more hours in a day. Went into the shower as I got out of bed and been wearing my bath towel since — my favourite outfit for work. It’s now 10:30am (and I’m still not wearing clothes), I spent the morning going through every single page of Helmut Newton’s SUMO book, which was definitely not on my list of things to do. I ended up watching a couple of documentaries I had already seen multiple times, procrastinating some more. Now I’m probably gonna spend the rest of the day writing about my new projects here, in this journal — I’m not that good at putting my ideas into words for other people to read and comprehend, so it’s most likely going to take me forever. But it’ll be great practice.
When I debuted my career, all I wanted to do —and what I thought I’d be doing forever— was to create visually-appealing images featuring groups of girls wearing matching outfits. Possibilities seemed endless at the time and I genuinely believed that’s all I’d ever photograph. I was under the impression that, if you want to make a name for yourself as an artist, you are better sticking to one genre. And once I had found mine, that’s all I did. For 4 years.
Then one day late 2015, I started to feel like my work was too irrelevant and superficial in contrast to the issues of the world. I was spending a lot of time, money and energy into creating images which meant nothing much. That feeling was growing bigger over the years as worldwide horrors continued to occur. But the one event that got me thinking the first time about the purpose of my work, and undoubtedly the most disturbing one for me, was the Paris attacks at The Bataclan on November 13, 2015. I had a really hard time dealing with that. When I lived in Paris (2007 to 2009), Le Bataclan was my favourite music venue. I have been to so many gigs there, it was like my second home. Nathan played that venue three nights in a row in November 2009 — the last gigs I went to before moving to London and some of the best memories of my life. And I couldn’t believe all the horror that was happening inside those walls as I watched the night unfold via the news. I was actually supposed to be in Paris that weekend, but had already been to Berlin twice in 10 days and decided to cancel my trip so I could spend some time with Joseph and Coco. I wish I had not done that so I could have been there to help in any way possible. I wanted to help so badly. I felt beyond useless behind my screen all the way from London. Long story short this has really affected me. Another troubling event was the attack on the Christmas market in Berlin. That market was only 10mins away from my apartment, and we had just been there the day before. Being so close and familiar with a place where this kind of events happen really affects you in different ways and puts your life into perspective — and the one of others.
I felt a lot of guilt for being online while all of this was happening, sharing images which meant nothing in comparison to the news. Progressively, I pushed myself away from my own work. When I turned 30, I took the time to reflect on what I had done and what I wanted to do in the future. That’s when I started to consider other genres of photography, such as documentary. I had no interest in documentary photography at all before, but thankfully, things change — and people too.
As much as I wanted to explore new ideas, the switch from #ophelieandthegirls to documentary photography has been difficult. I had spent four years building a strong signature style and an audience who appreciates it, and I knew that starting a new body of work within another niche would damage that irrevocably. I didn’t want to care about it, but I couldn’t help myself and it has stopped me from going forward for months. I was too scared to loose it all, and I certainly didn’t want everyone to witness my fall via social media. I wasn't mentally prepared for that to happen and as a result I carried on with what I was already doing. At some point, I considered curating two instagram accounts — one for @ophelieandthegirls, and one for everything else under my name @ophelierondeau. That’s another reason why I kept switching back and worth between the two usernames last year. I could see the potential of #ophelieandthegirls and couldn’t let that go. I thought I could handle two accounts easily but I was wrong. I didn’t want to disappoint my followers and kept on trying anyway. Until I eventually had enough and decided to put an end to it all. Go offline for a month and plan the next steps towards my new creative journey in silence.
This brings us to September 2018. The end of the year was fairly near and I decided to spend the remaining weeks developing and researching a new body of work. I was trying to think about what to do next, taking into consideration all of my interests, inspirations and artistic needs. I was trying to figure out a project which would tick all boxes, and came up with a ton of ideas of all kinds —at one point, I had close to 100 concepts in mind— but none of them was ‘good enough’. None of them seemed worth pursuing. I was growing desperate and ended up shooting a fashion editorial for Nylon Germany in October 2018, as a response to my craving for creating new work. I hadn’t shot in months at that time, and urgently needed to press the shutter. That shoot was ok, but really unnecessary. After that, I disabled my instagram account and disappeared entirely. I had to find a new project by the end of the year, and for that I needed to log out so I could think properly, without any kind of distractions.
And I did just that.
And eventually, I found it. I found my next project. And this time, it has a real purpose. A purpose of helping others. And it ticks all of the boxes. And it doesn't require any involvement with publications. And it meets both my cultural and aesthetics needs. And it is authentic, and beautiful. And it is worth all of the time and effort put into finding it. And it’s gonna be such an exciting and rewarding experience. And I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
I need to go right now, and unfortunately I don’t think I'll be able to carry on writing when I get back. I’ll finally reveal all of the details about what to expect from me in 2019 tomorrow! It’s taking a bit longer than expected but I'm sure everything makes much more sense now… doesn’t it?