Hokkaido is the second largest and northern most island in Japan. It produces many agricultural products like potatoes, wheat, corn and soybean. It is home to volcanic mountains, lush forests, rolling fields and expansive lakes. The distinct seasons and significant temperature swings between night and day give rise to breathtaking natural phenomena like mist, frost and diamond dust.
My first trip to Hokkaido was during winter as a child. I was enchanted by its snow-capped mountains and quiet winter forests. The profound impression of this place stayed with me into adulthood, and I longed to return. Now when I visit, it conjures a nostalgia for those simple childhood memories. Wanting to be closer to Hokkaido, I relocated to work in Tokyo about ten years ago and eventually left my finance job.
Whenever I am in Hokkaido, my mind clears, my heart rate slows and my smiles return. The images of this project were, in essence, a chronicle of my healing as well as my growth as a photographer. Photographing nature distracted me from my unhappiness and gave me a sense of purpose.
The Chinese idiom “天时地利人和” speaks to the importance of fortuitous timing (天时), favorable conditions (地利) and the human resolve (人和) to our endeavors. This is especially true for my photography because my images are a collaborative effort with nature.
Some natural phenomena like diamond dust are difficult to come by as they demand a confluence of multiple factors, e.g., clear sky, extremely low temperatures, high humidity, and calm, windless conditions. As global temperatures warm and the weather becomes increasingly erratic, diamond dust and sun pillars are becoming even rarer. I fear that there will come a day when this amazing phenomenon may become extinct, and it is this very concern that has driven me to photograph in greater earnest these days.
Although the urge to photograph had initially stemmed from an almost desperate desire to prolong the serenity that nature brought, over time I began to enjoy simply being immersed in nature, marveling at its beauty and being grateful for yet another serendipitous encounter. The images that I have made there through each season reflect the sometimes unexpected or surprising changes that I have experienced. Being in Hokkaido has made this possible. I bear its imprint, artistically and temperamentally. This magical place has enabled me to rediscover myself, and recalibrate the pace and direction of my life.
About Xuan-Hui Ng
Xuan-Hui Ng is from Singapore and currently lives in Japan. She began photographing as a form of self-therapy. She was grieving the loss of her mother, who had been both her confidante and her moral compass. The loss plunged her into a downward spiral until a chance encounter with nature set her on her path to recovery. Its vastness gave her a sense of perspective while its beauty reignited in her a sense of wonder and adventure. It reminded her that life is beautiful, that there is so much to live for and to explore.
Ng is represented by Foto Relevance, a gallery in Houston. She has been selected for juried exhibitions at the Griffin Museum, Davis Orton Gallery, Southeast Center for Photography, Texas Photographic Society and A Smith Gallery, in addition to placing at Fotonostrum’s 17th and 18th Pollux Awards. She is also a Critical Mass Finalist (top 200) for 2021 and 2022. She has given artist talks for the Griffin Museum of Photography and Lakeshore Camera Club. Publications of her work have been featured in include What Will You Remember?, fotoMAGAZIN, PetaPixel and ON landscape. She was recently featured in BBC World Service’s Cultural Frontline podcast. She currently contributes 2-3 articles annually to ELEMENTS landscape photography magazine. [Official Website]