The Beauty of Symbolism


By Kris Milano

The dictionary defines symbolism as the use of symbols to express or represent ideas or qualities in literature and art, etc. Others prefer its secondary meaning as the particular idea or quality that is expressed by a symbol. Regardless of definitions, Nina Pak is one creative and visual artist where both meanings are apropos and perhaps some new meanings should be created to describe her art. Her view is a force to be reckoned with and the images are more than just shameless fashion spreads promoting labels. They strive to be masterpieces of a new art form. When one looks at her work, one word comes up consistently and with sincerity too, which is beauty. This is a body of work that conveys nothing short of an aesthetic which feeds both the eyes and the appetites of the imagination as well. Her work bridges the worlds of fashion and art, while simultaneously conjuring up worlds straight out of science fiction or fantasy novels. Romantic notions and artistry are also in the mix and make her photos a must have to decorate your home and enrich your soul. We sat down with Nina and she revealed her mind and heart to us. Following is what she told us about concerning her view, her aesthetic and how she creates these images.
So we asked….

1. Who is Nina Pak?

I am a woman who chooses to live as an artist in a time when art is not valued, I am a deep thinker and love to explore the intricacies of history, as well as the minds of those who imagine what might be beyond this world. I am a spiritual person who is not interested in organized religion. I am an empathetic soul who feels the pain of the world but chooses to look for, and create, beauty… in hope that this may be a kind of balm for those who suffer.

2. How long have you been a photographer and visual artist?

I have always been artistically inclined, for as long as I can remember I have made some form of art. In college I majored in painting and print making, I also cast and fabricated jewelry and cut gem stones for a time, worked with pottery, handmade art books, I love to write. I took photography in high school, but did not have a professional camera, so I did not pursue it when the class was finished. I was always taking snapshots of friends, but it was just part of enjoying life and documenting events. I began to take photography more seriously when I was thirty, and never intended to make it a career, it just evolved into something bigger than I imagined.

3. What made you want to do this for a living and way of life?

I was given a 35 MM professional camera at age 30 and decided to take a class to become familiar with the use of it again. My teacher was the head of the schools photography department and he was a talented artist himself. (Dean Terasaki) There was a large darkroom facility and with some ingenuity we devised a way to make mural sized prints, which I would then paint on to create one of a kind art works. I did this for a few years until the school changed its policy and did not allow the use of the dark room by graduates. By then I had begun to explore digital work and was taking the first classes offered in Photoshop. So I switched to that medium. This opened up new possibilities. My work evolved from there and other people became involved as collaborators, muses, clients and fans. I began to show my work in galleries and to publish.

4. How do you come up with the ideas for the various images that we see within your body of work?

I have more ideas than I can ever produce, some concepts come from my “dream worlds,” I think it is safe to say I have an active imagination.

5. When one looks at your work, painters such as Delacroix or Gustav Klimt come to the mind. What painters or periods of history inspire your work?

While I have not been compared to Delacroix before to my knowledge, I often am told that my work reminds people of Gustav Klimt, Alphonse Mucha as well as various Pre- Raphaelite artists such as John William Waterhouse and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. There is no doubt that these artists have had an influence on my work, I love and admire them. I am also very fond of the photography of Julia Margaret Cameron.

6. Who do you make your work for, in terms of an audience? Is it the home décor market or collectors or fashion/art or both?

I make art to feed my soul, I know that may sound silly or dramatic, but I simply don’t feel well if I am not creating, I get depressed and despondent and very sad, I wish it were not so, but If I am not involved in some kind of creative venture I feel my life has little meaning. Aside from that, I hope what I create will touch some other soul in a meaningful way and plant some seeds of hope, harmony, and beauty. There have been many other artists who have argued that an artist’s duty is to express the ugliness in the world to effect change. I have been criticized for making art that is just pretty and therefore empty and meaningless. I had a difficult childhood with frightful and tragic experiences, I have lived the ugly, I don’t need to create it in any form. I made a world of beauty where I could escape as a child, that dream world grew and as I acquired skills I attempted to share that beauty with others.

7. Who are your favorite fashion designers and why?

Alexander McQueen would be at the top of my list, his innovation and avant garde styling is very inspiring. Daphne Guinness is also very creative and a lovely muse as well as designer. Vivienne Westwood I adore, she is vibrant and bold and full of life. And I love these designers for their out of the box way of thinking about fashion: Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto, Gareth Pugh, Comme des Garcons, Victor & Rolf, John Galliano, Abhishek Dutta & Riyaz Gangji. I am also in love with my local designers and value their creative genius more than I can say, April Peters and Kristine Hawthorne are two that I have worked with the most, but there are a few others who have been a great inspiration as well.

8. If you had the chance to shoot Madonna or Lady Gaga, how would you portray them? (Of course with their permission.)

These iconic figures have their own very particular style, they are bigger than life; any image or concept involving either of them would have to be something exceptionally grand. It is perhaps difficult to think of something they have not done already, they have spent their lives reinventing themselves. Had I the opportunity to shoot them, I am sure something wonderful would come to mind, hopefully something uniquely strange and elegant which would do them justice.

9. When you shoot a model, what are you looking for from them? What qualities do you like?

When I seek a muse, I prefer a model who is not overly self-possessed, not focused on their exterior. I want someone who is able to reach inside and pull out something real, who can show me emotions. Someone who is honest and pure… I look for people who love themselves for who they are, rather than how they look.

10. When one looks at your work, we see elements of Steam Punk. Would you say this is true and why?

Yes, I love this mix of Victorian and futuristic fashion, in a sort of dystopian setting. I am fond of Science Fiction, so it fits with some of my creative fantasies. With the Steam Punk styling, I have shot many creative collaborations with April Peters of The House Gallery Boutique and Kristine Hawthorne whose label is Helene Hawthorne in honor of her grandmother.

11. What projects do you have in the pipeline that you wish to share with us?

I am moving more toward a painterly finished product with my work, getting away from the focus on fashion editorial and more toward individual pieces that would be gallery worthy.

12. Where can people buy your work?

My representative in Chicago is Debra Koertge, her gallery is Artemisia. My gallery in Scottsdale has just closed, but you can also contact me directly if you’re not in the Chicago area. Aside from that I participate in a few group shows every year. Such as the Eros show by the Photo Haus Gallery herein Vancouver BC, and the next show I will be in is with


Molto Grazie from Nina Pak for doing this interview. This woman is a genius and if you are either a model or a collector, or even an interior designer with a major contract; this is the woman to add to your collection.

You can also view our Gallery of Nina Pak’s Works here
– Publisher’s Note: Kris Milano, Publisher of


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