Like magic, language conjures imagery in the mind. While searching for a title for this project, I was struck by the French expression, un état d’âme. It means a mood or frame of mind, while avoir des états d’âme means to have uncertainties. Literally translated however, the words état and âme in English are, “state” and “soul” — in other words, state of the soul.
My preoccupation with Shakespeare’s Ophelia began in the mid 90s after seeing Sir John Everett Millais’ breathtaking painting of Hamlet’s troubled love interest, but she ended up on the back-burner while I pursued a career in education (as a single parent). Ophelia haunted me for many years, and it wasn’t until later that I began compiling research materials, including psychoanalytic and feminist theories on Shakespearian female protagonists. Around that time, I also began documenting staged scenes in and under water (both in photography and video), but only a fraction of the material was ever used – for a short video entitled, Hush (2010), and for a series of photomontages (several of which were featured in two juried exhibitions — Italy, 2010, and the UK, 2011). These are newly revised versions:
Most of the photography seen here is from a shoot in Quebec (2009) where I spent a weekend with a group of artist friends from Montreal and Paris. Alex was making a short film, in which we all took part, either as actors or grips, and I was working on my Ophelia Project, for which my friends spent hours floating in a chilly stream while I photographed and filmed them.
Now, at this stage, I am re-examining the project’s original concept. While Ophelia would logically suggest an exploration of feminine perceptions and experiences, Alex’s participation in the photo sessions that weekend caused an unexpected shift. The resulting photographs are undeniably powerful — they transcend gender, they allude to a pure state of being, they hint at the unconscious.
Ophélie: un état d’âme is a work in progress. The project was resurrected and given a title in October 2014, and I’ve begun to shortlist and re-edit the entire body of work in order to finally bring it to light in some coherent way. Alex, who passed away earlier this year, would have wanted me to finish what I started. This is the beginning.
The photo of Alex below is the one that was used in the digital collages that were exhibited in Italy. The last time I saw him was in Paris where I had a stop-over en route to the exhibition. He and his wife met me for lunch, and later we took goofy photos together on the street. He was a consummate artist.