You’ll rarely, if ever, travel as far to reach a place as one does when one travels to New Zealand. If you fly to Auckland opposite the Earth’s rotation as one might from, say, Los Angeles, you would miss an entire day of the week.

“There’s an entire Tuesday that I’ll never live through,” joked photographer Rachael Thompson. “Once you get there, you don’t miss it.”

The country sits on a landmass that’s among the youngest geological formations on the planet, with active volcanoes, black sand beaches and thousands of species that no longer thrive at other latitudes.

Nature's Cauldron by Rachael Thompson

Thompson drew particular inspiration from the lifeways of New Zealand’s indigenous people, the Māori, who have incorporated the land’s primordial flora and fauna into their storytelling and artwork for generations.

“The Māori are connected to nature in a fundamental way,” she said. “They’ve seen all of nature’s processes up close and incorporated it into their traditions.”

New Life by Rachael Thompson

The unfurling leaf of a silver fern, for example, is central to the Māori and is depicted everywhere as koru, a symbol representing rebirth and new life. It struck her so profoundly that the symbol inspired Thompson's first tattoo. The title of the series, Aotearoa, is often translated as “the land of the long white cloud” and pays homage to North Island’s natural wonders as well as the Māori’s efforts to preserve their heritage and affirm their dignity.

In this 10-image series, Thompson seeks to present together the many different faces of a wild country that balances between the modern and primordial, the new and the eternal.

“I was capturing the story of this place as I was discovering it," Thompson said. "I wanted to capture its soul.”

About the images: 
Outpost” at Karioitahi Beach, New Zealand, 2008; “Nature’s Cauldron” at Rotorua, New Zealand, 2008; and “New Life” at Waitomo, New Zealand, 2008 from the Aotearoa series by Rachael Thompson.