Virginia Mak


Canadian photographer Virginia Mak explores the possibilities of the medium with soft focus and minimized light values. Pushing photography beyond traditional limits, Virginia Mak focuses on themes of longing, and the individual’s connection to inner self.

Virginia Mak’s photography has been collected throughout North America and Hong Kong.


Pushing photography beyond traditional limits, Virginia Mak explores the visual possibilities of the medium. Known for its soft focus and minimized light values, her work blurs the lines between painting and photography.

Countenance Series:
Mak’s current series explores the human face as a front and presentation of self towards others. A face can express joy, sorrow, surprises, passion or lethargy. Faces are recognized through something as simple as the shape of an individual’s hair or nose, the overall shape, or the gestures that accompany it.  Even if we squint our eyes, thus blurring what we see, we can make out traces of their persona, the potential of a “self”.

Composed Series:
Mak’s current series is inspired by Jane Austin’s Sense and Sensibility, wherein the character Marianne’s sorrows and joys “could have no moderation”. Mak photographed creative individuals. Working in the darkroom with film negatives, she superimposed a layer of painted lines and motifs that allude to the artistic sensibility. Blending subject with colours, lines and shapes, the resulting image shifts from a portrait to a poetic picture.

Small Moments Series:
Small Moments conjures from ordinary experience a hidden sense of all that is extraordinary — in just being alive. Each image can be an instant that is free of ornament, implicit of his or her story, its cracking surface about to burst and slip into the future.

Character Reference Series:
Mak infuses her photographic work with contemporary allusions to icons from literature, folklore and mythology. By staging scenarios around story lines and characters, the series Character Reference, visually depicts fictional figures and re-interprets the narrative.

Hidden Nature Series:
The Hidden Nature series is inspired by the great German painter, Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840). Friedrich suggests that, “the painter should paint not only what he has in front of him, but also what he sees inside himself”. Mak’s work often touches on themes of longing, and the individual’s connection to the inner self. Wherein this series, Mak moodily presented large-format colour photographs speak to the unexpected beauty that comes with spatial isolation and meditation.

Of One’s Own Series:
The series, Of One’s Own consists of interior portraits where the woman is engaged in a quiet act or looking at the world outside. Such a moment may be a metaphor for an opening into another plane. Or, it may be an antecedent or a recurring process for which a woman creates or excels in her art.

Mak was born in Hong Kong. After graduating with a Philosophy Degree from the University of Calgary, she went on to study Photography at the Ontario College of Art and design. She is a recipient of project, exhibition and travel grants from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts. Her work has been written about in the Calgary Herald, the Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun and the Toronto Star. Mak’s photographs are included in the Art Bank and Toronto Archives, as well as in other public and private collections worldwide.

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