A worldly nomad lands in SoCal and rediscovers her love for photography and surf culture
Califramed and the local lens.
- Written byTanya Monaghan
- Photographed byPatricia van Hanswijck de Jonge
“I’m a citizen of everywhere and nowhere, but I am always excited to embrace each new ‘home,’” shares local photographer Patricia van Hanswijck de Jonge. “Photography has helped me appreciate and embrace the individuality of every place I go.”
Patricia was born in Geneva, Switzerland, into a mix of Dutch and Italian roots. She speaks four languages—learned as a daughter of a foreign diplomat—and acclimated to a nomadic life at a very young age. By the time she was 14 she had lived in five countries around the world.
Patricia has always been creative. As a child she was encouraged to explore her talents and was frequently gifted paints and art supplies. She completed the International Baccalaureate program with high grades and, with encouragement from her teachers, applied for The Royal Academy of Art in The Hague.
Notoriously difficult to get into, she remembers feeling very intimidated at the evaluation interview. “The waiting room was full of people, most of whom were a lot older and more experienced than me,” she says. “Their work looked so impressive.”
She felt out of her element as she entered a big dark room where four men dressed in suits sat at a very long table, ready to evaluate her artwork. After the interview she left feeling there was no way she would be chosen. It came as a delightful shock when she was ultimately selected as one of the 15. She clearly remembers her art teacher saying to her, “If you don’t take this opportunity, I will kick your ass.”
But even though she excelled at art in school, she rebelled against the expectations. She felt as if being an artist was being pushed on her. “There was something in me that had always been told that this was what I was going to do,” she shares. “But I think I felt that I had to prove that I had another part of me too—a scientific side.”
She finished her schooling in The Hague, Holland, and went on to study psychology. Patricia became passionately interested in the psychology of eating disorders. At 22 she moved to London to do a psychology placement in a specialist eating disorder hospital, St George’s Hospital Medical School. She spent seven years studying and working under the guidance of Professor Lacey, an expert in the field, and earned her PhD.
What was originally supposed to be a six-month stint in London became another “home” for her. She was captivated by the city’s diversity, the people, culture and art. Although she had lived in so many different countries in her 22 years, she didn’t really feel like she belonged to any of them.
“Landing in London felt comfortable because it is such a melting pot of people and culture,” she says. “In a weird way, I didn’t feel any different from anyone else because everybody else was like me: different. I felt like we all had accents and came from somewhere else.”
Patricia met her husband, Pete, six months before completing her PhD. Getting through it was a huge feat, and she was grateful for his support. She started working with patients battling anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and obesity.
Following the completion of her PhD, Patricia started working as a research scientist for a London-based international consultancy specializing in health outcomes for pharmaceutical companies. Her role quickly evolved into managing director of the London office—an inspiring and exciting challenge for her.
Outside their working life, Pete and Patricia kept very busy raising their sons in London. Shortly after their youngest was born, they decided to move to Switzerland for Pete’s work. Patricia again found herself in a new country, but this time she was a parent with three kids under the age of 4.
Knowing from personal experience how tough it could be to acclimate, Patricia decided to give up her career and became a stay-at-home mom. It proved to be a difficult transition, as her career had played a huge role in forming her identity as an adult. Suddenly it was gone.
“Another new country, a new language and no friends. I felt like I was constantly looking after three kids, wiping bottoms, changing diapers and cleaning messes,” she remembers. “I felt really lost, but I couldn’t really do much else at the time because I had a newborn baby and two other children under the age of 4. Leaving my career was the choice that I myself made, but it was really, really hard.”
Being isolated in Switzerland encouraged her to get back in touch with her creative side again. On a whim, she bought a camera and signed up for a course. Once she started gaining confidence, she branched out from taking photos of her own children to taking photos of other children. The word spread, and her side hobby spiraled quickly into a full-time commitment. Overwhelmed again, she decided to put her art aside to fully focus on her family.
Six years later in 2016, the worldly woman found herself moving yet again—this time to Los Angeles. L.A. was so different from anything she had ever been a part of … living in an iconic landscape she had only seen on TV or in the movies.
“I was just struck by it all,” she says. I wanted to share it with my friends, who are now all around the world. As I was living it, I wanted them to live it too … and the amazing thing about social media is that you can help other people live things they can’t.” And so her instagram account @Califramed was born.
Within three weeks of landing in L.A., she challenged herself to take a photo each day for a month and post it—even though she had no idea how Instagram even worked at the time. It started with iPhone shots of iconic or beautiful images around L.A. but soon blossomed into a true artistic expression … the one she’d always had and had been trained for.
“It made me see my surroundings in a different way. It slows me down to appreciate what is around me,” Patricia says. “I could walk past a cactus and normally not even look at it. Now I notice the fine red edging, and it’s just so beautiful. In the same way that people do yoga—to slow themselves down and reconnect to their breath and body—photography connects me to my surroundings and makes me appreciate them more.”
She adds, “To get that next level in a photo, you need to be completely connected to it. You need to fall in love with your subject, whether that is the ocean, a cactus or a grain of sand. You feel that and really see it way before you even take the picture. That translates into the kind of photography that I want to do: images with a soul.”
Living close to the beach also reignited her longtime love of surf culture. When she first met her husband 18 years ago, they took a trip to his hometown of Sydney, Australia. There was something about the surf culture there that pulled her in, especially the captivating work of Jack Eden, a popular Australian surf photographer of the 1970s.
She collected 15 of his prints and studied them with her artist’s eye. She noticed that unlike most surf photography, the surfers weren’t literally surfing the waves in each photo. Jack would take a photo of a surfer standing on a rock and looking out toward the sea or of surfers taking their boards out of their vans. It somehow captured their spiritual connection to the ocean, and for Patricia being near the ocean is being as “at one with nature” as you are going to get.
“I am a surf photographer, and in a male-dominated industry I realize that I am one of a very few women who photograph surfers,” she says. “I think that because I approach the shot from a female perspective, it inherently makes everything a bit different.”
Patricia also loves to collaborate with others—doing custom, large-scale fine art photography for homes, working with interior designers and a variety of media. She recently exhibited some of her work at Suite Six in Manhattan Beach, which led to a collaboration with Lululemon for the grand opening of their new store at The Point in El Segundo. As part of that project, the talented Annabel Lee filmed a documentary about Patricia and her photography, to be released over our social media channels soon. Her work is available to purchase in-store at Riley Arts and Two Guns in Manhattan Beach, and custom orders and prints are available by reaching out to her directly on Instagram @califramed.
Patricia’s passion for her art shines through brilliantly in her images, but she is beautifully humble. “I aim to continue developing my photography and my creative self,” she notes. “The two are highly intertwined. Photography is the art of connection … connect with yourself, connect with the subject, connect with the viewer.”