Meet Jessica de Vreeze, world-citizen and international photographer


As mentioned in the about part of our blog, we are a family that treasures cultural diversity, multilingualism and living abroad as a way of life. We are world-citizens. Our lifestyle has its challenges, but also its benefits. While our daughter grows up within three cultures, three religious’ systems, four languages, she also has to learn from very small age that, in order to see her grandparents, she has to travel to two different countries. She is learning to cope with missing someone dear before we have even enrolled her to a school.

But our story is not unique and the scope of this interview series is to introduce our readers to families that live the same experiences and share the same set of values as ours.

The first person I chose for our project is Jessica de Vreeze, a French-American visual artist, born in Paris and now in New York.  I had the pleasure to meet her in June, when we met for a photo shoot in Amsterdam. She came with her Dutch husband and I with my very international little daughter. We talked and laughed and though about how small the world is becoming and how intertwined our cultures are (You can follow her on Instagram @hopeje @jessicadevreeze)

Why New York? Ps you’ve moved, right?

Thank you for choosing to start your interview series with me.  Your questions resonate with those coming back to my mind every so often.  New York is where my father is from and, even though I was born and raised in Paris, I kept this beautiful city close to my soul. The connection that I built with it, both I and my sister, defines who I am (we are) today: French American girl(s).

Ps: Yes. I moved to Miami.

How is it to live internationally?

It involves a lot of traveling, phone calls and Face-time. It’s also about always missing someone dear, someone you love. At the same time, it’s about meeting new people, learning new paths, discovering.  Of course, visiting a place differs very much from living in it. Therefore, through my work I have always tried to bring the viewer closer to the local perspectives.

How is to be an international family?

It’s about everything I mentioned above.  Nowadays communication is easier, due to all the development of technology, but also due to the lower prices of communication. Keeping in touch is affordable, even the flight tickets are cheaper. Happily, we have family and friends who are also willing and able to travel the world to meet us. This way of living makes us appreciate the value of love, friendship, family and health. Money is important as it allows us to enjoy “shared moments”, but it’s a mean to and end, it gives us the freedom to do more, not to have more.

Where do you feel at home?

I feel at home where I choose to live. It could be in Paris, Luxembourg, New York, Breda, Amsterdam and now in Miami.  Home, for us, is where our families and friends are. In one word I feel at home where my heart is.

What do you miss the most from Europe and how do you and your family cope with missing this part of the world?

I miss my friends and my family, but as mentioned before, thanks to the progress made by technology, we “see” each other and talk often. I miss the  food, but not only.  I miss having a slow-paced lifestyle, taking the time to enjoy a coffee on a terrace. I miss what we know as the French “art de vivre”. I also miss different cities around the world, which hold a special place in my heart. Happily, we fly often, so revisiting them is possible.

How important is freedom of movement for you?

Twelve years ago, during my stage at the European Commission (in my previous “career” as a lawyer), I had a discussion with a Romanian lawyer. She told me that freedom of movement was more important than health. I argued that health is the most important thing in one’s life as we can’t do anything without it, but we agreed that all humans should be awarded with the freedom of movement. Therefore, It’s essential for all of us. My whole life I have felt the ocean was separating my world in two. As long as I can cross it back and forth, it’s fine. I am therefore very grateful to be able to enjoy my freedom. I also don’t take it for granted and I fully understand what people deprived of it must feel; people that have to migrate in order to built a better future, people who can’t bring their family over, people that can’t afford to visit their homelands or the ones they left behind.

Do you believe in a world without borders?

Yes I do, if it could exist, if freedom of movement would be for all, it would be a dream come true. In this Utopia, People would respect each other and not abuse situations or social benefits. Nobody would take advantage of the weaker…Even though we are not there yet, I  hope humanity will keep making steps in the right direction.

One of my favorite quotes is « La liberté des uns s’arrête là où commence celle des autres » by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the “Social contract”. It describes the the freedom to be, without abusing the other.

How would you define yourself: An expat, an artist or a world citizen?

I define myself as those three and even more:  an artist, an expat as much as an “inpat”, a world citizen, a mom, a woman, a girl, a daughter, a friend, and everything else that I am still yet to become.

How is living internationally reflected in your work?

Traveling is part of myself, it’s my way of live, I feel like a nomad, with roots everywhere. I don’t know yet where I’ll stop or if I’ll stop somewhere. I travel to  see my loved ones, discover new destinations, culture, nature and the entanglement created between people and their surroundings. I would hate to be locked in a world where travelling is hindered.

Living internationally is fundamental to my work as I love  bringing pieces of my world closer to others, especially those that can’t travel as much as I do.  I’m passionate about cities and I love capturing the urban wilderness.

My work is like a symphony of textures, colours, lines, buildings, bridges, faces, shapes, movement that I put together in order to allow my viewers to immerse themselves in my work.

If you look around, art is everywhere, artist make our life better, it brings inspiration, introspection, happiness.

It’s thus very important to support living artist by investing in them. It’s a life commitment and it should not be restricted by economical factors. At my level, and being myself an artist, I support my peers buying what I fall in love with if I can afford it as much as I can.

What impact did it have on your artistic vision?

It evolves with me, with my memories, my moods, my emotions, my yearning desires, my expectations from the others. I’m trying to offer a wider perspective and a positive energy to others. I love to let myself create, I jump into my imagination, it is who I am and sharing is a gift, it gives a second life to what I create. It would get lonesome to create and never show it to others. I wonder what Viviane Mayer was thinking… maybe for her just capturing moments was enough….

My work is all about sharing. I love to see my photographs finding new homes and becoming part of the universe of their new owners. It’s like a smile passed from one to another. Art gives life a new density, while living beyond borders gives me wings…

Where is home?

“…Where paths that have an affinity for each other intersect,
the whole world looks like home, for a time.”
Hermann Hesse


Every couple of months I fly back to Romania to spend time with my family and  help my daughter understand my culture. The moment we land I switch to Romanian and I start telling her about my roots. “Mommy was born here, this is Romania and here  your grandparents live and your favorite person so far, your cousin L. This is my country. It used to be my home”. The word “home” stirs mixed emotions inside myself and she feels my hesitation. It is unfortunately difficult for me to explain to her, in the simplest words, that I don’t know anymore where home is.

I feel at home in Romania, because it feels familiar. There I have my roots, my ancestors, my family, my mother tongue, my churches, my first love, my first failures, fears, lessons about life. Romania, in my heart, is a fairyland, with dualistic forces permanently fighting for surviving. I miss it all the time, but I also feel as an outsider when I’m there. I have always felt this way. Unsettled. I haven’t, however, left Romania in search for a better  life, but for the love of facing the unknown.

I do feel at home in Israel as well, but it’s the country of my partner.  I’m a “guest” there, a welcomed one. I’m the Christian who sits quietly at the Seder, the one that reads the English Haggadah. From the very beginning Israel felt like an adoptive family. It took me time to find familiarity, common points, but my husband has always been there for me, to guide my steps, to make me feel integrated. Not only him, but also his family, his friends, his neighbors, his tribe. In a way, in Israel I’ve learned to find intimacy within a culture that was not mine, but it became a part of me.

In Netherlands I feel at home the most because here we built a nest for our small family, a shelter for our interfaith relationship. Because here I found love and I gave birth to my daughter. Here I have my bike and nobody freaks out when I’m telling them that I have no interest in driving a car. In a way, a home and a community took shape here for us, while we were busy loving each other, or loving our daughter.

To a certain extent I felt at home in every single country I’ve studied or worked, even when I had to travel so often that it felt like I was living out of a suitcase. Maybe the soul of a nomad hides inside of me and because of it I learned to feel at home in my own presence and in the presence of people I love and not inside particular buildings, or borders. Today I feel at home where my mind is at ease, where I can sleep through the night, where I love life and I accept it as it comes.

I can’t however help but wonder where would my daughter feel at home? Would she need a specific country, culture, or language to feel welcomed? Would she maybe choose my motherland? Or that of her father’s? Would she have to travel this Planet to find what home is? Maybe she would… I just hope that by then people would be kinder and  a bit more compassionate.

Photo Credits: DAniel Grecu Photography.

DAniel Grecu is born in my home town,  Giurgiu (Romania) and he is one of my favorite Romanian photographers. To find out more about his spectacular work, check him up on Instagram.

Standing like a tree challenge

“I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;”

My dear friends, let me tell you a secret. I love trees. I’m even one of those weirdos that love hugging them. It gives me peace and it quiets my mind. Thus when I need my time alone, I go near them, they are my temple, their presence helps me to reconnect to myself and it nurtures me. This is why at the beginning of February I’ve decided to become one. No, I haven’t lost my mind, I meant it in a metaphorical way. I’ve embarked on a  28 days “standing like a tree” challenge. It was one of my new year resolutions to pick up a challenge and, as I didn’t see myself running any marathons yet, I’ve decided to choose something that I could do on my own, without any pressure from the outside. I also wanted something that would not invite any competitiveness inside me. Something that will take place far from the viewers’ eyes and it will turn my attention inwards. As a mom of toddler I’m always on the run, doing something, and I hardly get any time or space for my meditation, my yoga practice or myself. In a way, on a deeper level, I chose this challenge because I was intensely missing being connected to my inner self, the one where my hell and heaven are passionately dancing. I had therefore a lot of expectations from my “challenge”. I was expecting to bring stillness to my thoughts, some clarity with regards to my emotional baggage, but also an improved energy.

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“Remind me not, remind me not” is Valentine’s again

Today the world  woke up to an abundance  of love, balloons, chocolate, flowers, kisses and dreamy looks. If this image triggers resistance inside yourself, please continue reading. In fact, even if it doesn’t, keep on reading.

Yes, today we celebrate love. Again.  Aren’t we tired of it? Exhausted even? I honestly had enough! I always had enough! So much that I can afford the luxury of saying that maybe it has always been too much. I’m not necessarily talking about the one I’ve received, but more about the one I offered lavishly to anyone and anything:  my family,  my husband, my friends, the people that I didn’t  like but I forced myself to come to like,  the ones I’ve  forgiven, to my passions, even to my thoughts or my inner demons.

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Expat vs migrant – Talking about identity


During last October I visited an exhibition, presented within a project of “Open Source Government” called “Ideology Meets Implementation”. In this context I took part in an interactive artwork created by Pendar Nabipour, an Iranian artist, living and working in the Netherlands. As presented in the attached picture, visitors were asked, at the entrance, to choose between acceding the place as either expats or migrants. Instinctively I’ve chosen the “expat” gate, without questioning my choice. Later on, while talking with the artist, I understood that the big majority of visitors emphatically identified themselves with the migrants. The experience made me feel uncomfortable and it stirred an inner debate. Why did I so confidently choose the expat identity? After some deliberate reflection,  I began to understand why.

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see you soon, goodbyes, farewell, hello, story

See you soon “J”!

A story about goodbyes



When you live abroad, far from your parents and your childhood friends, you gradually learn how to leave behind someone dear. When you become an expat and people are coming and going in and out of your life, saying “farewell” becomes a constant. In time, a permanent feeling of longing  for someone becomes part of you and, because of it, you come to acknowledge any emotions gravitating towards leave-taking situations.

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One family, two religions


The blessings and challenges of an interfaith family

As mentioned in our introductory post “Raising citizens of the World“, we are an interfaith family, I’m an Orthodox Christian and my husband is Jewish. Our family is a beautiful syncretism and, for us,  religion is a source of long hours of passionate dialogues. Since the very beginning we enjoyed talking through our beliefs, but we’ve never allowed ideological debates to push us apart. Even though we like the excitement that accompanies religious or metaphysical discussions, we often end up agreeing that the search for the sacred is a very private quest, which doesn’t have to be embraced by the other.

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Raising citizens of the World


Almost ten year ago I’ve met the love of my life in a modern art museum, in Amsterdam. We fell in love at first sight and from the very beginning, we learned that we were coming from different countries, cultures, and religions. He was born in Israel and I, in Romania. He was living in Amsterdam, while I was commuting from Bucharest to Brussels. We were  both, to some extent, living far from our motherlands, families and friends, working and socializing in English, a language which clearly was not our native one.

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