Paul Gallagher • Photographing Hokkaido

Japan’s landscapes can be difficult to capture while retaining their unique features. Paul Gallagher travelled to Hokkaido in order to capture the wonderful congruence between nature and man

I have been fortunate to photograph many landscapes in a variety of countries throughout the world, but the photographs I had seen of Japan always seemed to have a difference that was difficult to categorise, and I have always been drawn to places that may challenge me as a photographer.

My default position is to normally head to locations that could be regarded as remote, or certainly feel that way. As well as feeling a long way from cities and towns, the landscapes I regard as my favourites are ones that appear almost untouched, although in reality this is seldom the case. Almost all of the landscapes I have experienced have been modelled and influenced by the hands of mankind. One of the main factors that made Japan, and Hokkaido in particular, fascinating was the apparent simplicity of the place, certainly in the deep winter months. One of the approaches I take as a landscape photographer is to distil the elements of the landscape down to understandable parts of a composition so that the photograph is not an overwhelming record of every aspect of the scene.

Travelling through countries as photogenic as Scotland, USA, Norway and Iceland, there is still the need to break down the enormity of the landscape and make photographs that say something about individual aspects of that landscape that I saw when I was there with my camera. The photographs I had seen of Hokkaido showed less of this process and, in fact, seemed to describe a landscape that was elemental and minimal in its own right, with very little need for distillation at all. I began to wonder if ...

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