Coincidental Moments

Coincidental Moments

Digging her hands into the soil to sow squash seeds in the Govs organic garden next to Moseley Chapel. Noticing details of a small vendor cart abutting an alley on a crowded street in her home country of Hong Kong. No matter where she is, Miffy Wang ‘24 immerses herself into her surroundings; and her experiences have inspired many passions. Those that top her list thus far: sustainability and photography, the latter earning her national recognition as a first-place winner in the 2023 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for her photo, “Marooned.”

Here, she shares more about small moments with big impact. 

When did you develop a sustainability mindset?

Before I came to Govs, I knew I wanted to take an environmental science course because I felt like it was a perfect in-between of humanities and science; it included social and scientific elements and tied into current global issues. For one of the labs with Mrs. Borgatti we collected soil samples from different locations on campus, put them in mason jars with a scoop of borax, and let it sit so we could analyze its composition. Mrs. Borgatti shared our findings with the Facilities Department so they could add nutrients accordingly to help plants thrive, and I thought it was cool that we were not only learning, but helping the community around us.

In Sustainability in the Afternoon (a spring season afternoon program) with Mrs. Borgatti and Ms. Struck, we planted organic produce in the greenhouse behind Pierce: squash, pumpkins, potatoes, basil. We provided a lot of produce for the dining hall and it was so interesting for Govs to be able to trace food back to where it’s grown. Buying locally sourced food is important because it supports local businesses and is better for the environment because it requires less transportation, for example. 

You founded the Green Initiative in 2022. Could you share more about that? 

As I observed sustainable initiatives on campus – like electric car charging stations, the dining hall’s composting program and use of locally sourced food, and solar panels at the Wilkie Center – I realized that there was so much happening at Govs but I felt like not many people knew about it. I founded the Green Initiative to raise awareness, help the school formalize its sustainability commitment, and push for even more sustainable activities. For Earth Week I worked with other student clubs including the Environmental Club, the Ocean Protection Club, and the Outdoor Club to develop activities. I have partnered with Ms. Reyes, Ms. Struck, Ms. Borgatti, and other faculty to organize community-wide events. A good example of our work is raising $400+ for Mass Audubon from our bake sale.

Let’s shift gears and talk about your interest in photography.

I grew up in a very artistic family – my grandpa was a sculptor and photographer, my dad is an architect, and my mom is an art collector – and I enjoyed painting and drawing. During the pandemic I started taking photos of my dogs Miu Miu and Yoshi; honestly it all started because I was really bored and noticed people creating Instagram accounts for their dogs. My dogs are standard poodles, which aren’t very common in Hong Kong, so their Instagram account became really popular and peaked at 15k followers. The dogs even got brand deals for appearances at local hotels and events.

How did you go from snapping dog photos on your iPhone to winning a national photography award?

It’s a really funny story. That was an accidental photo I took days after I got my first digital camera in June 2021. I joined a program to get familiar with my new camera and we went around Hong Kong to streets in a busy part of the city. I noticed a vendor cart by an alley, thought it was interesting, and took a picture of it. I thought nothing of it; I thought it was just a picture of a cart filled with items for sale, including a portrait of a random man in the center. It turns out that the photo had interesting lighting and features, and the man was a very famous Hong Kong singer named Leslie Cheung who spearheaded the LGBTQ movement in China. The photo is a series of coincidences.

How did you choose the title of the photo?

“Marooned” was a new word to me; I heard it in a song and looked up the definition and understood it to mean something left behind. The whole vibe of the photo felt very reminiscent and nostalgic of something that has passed. 

How have your photography skills developed since that accidental (award-winning) photo?

After I enrolled in a Photo I course with Mr. Oxton at Govs, I learned about the actual thought behind photography and the execution of taking pictures of people and objects – and not just dogs. I learned a lot about the technical aspects of how to make a photo more appealing, and that has definitely played into my photo journey. I’m currently in AP Photography.

Do you have a favorite person, place, or thing to photograph?

Street photography is a really good way to capture odd moments in time and go out into an environment that you’re not familiar with. It’s both the photo itself but also the experience that I really enjoy. My goal is trying to capture not just a moment, but what the subject is feeling in the moment. You can always hypothesize something about the subject through their expression and where they are. That’s something I like to convey in my photos.

Any advice for aspiring photographers?

As a yearbook photographer, I’m working with Ms. Slater and we have a lot of deep conversations. One that really stuck out to me is that you don’t have to be perfect at something; you can do it because it’s fun and have that same feeling of achievement.