Taiwanese Typhoon Blues

Born in Warsaw, Poland, to photographer parents, Tom Kondrat grew up surrounded by cameras, and had his first photo published at age 12.

“These stories made typhoons sound very dangerous but at the same time there was something mysterious and exciting about them.”It wasn’t until over a decade later, however, that Kondrat picked up photography seriously, swapping the financial computing degree he was studying towards in Uxbridge for a photography course in East London. Now based in Taiwan, Kondrat’s passion for his craft seeps through the snapshots he captures of his adopted country. Most recently, he shared his experience of the typhoon season with us. Below he tells the story, his words woven in with these evocative, moody images.

“While living in Europe, I only heard about typhoons from the TV news. So when I moved to Taiwan and was told that one of them is actually ‘coming’, I had mixed feelings. In my mind there were all these images of destruction combined with the dry facts about the numbers of casualties and millions of dollars lost due to the damage. All these stories made typhoons sound very dangerous but at the same time there was something mysterious and exciting about them.

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“I focused on the ‘calm before the storm’ moments.”So when the first typhoon in the season hit Taiwan three years ago, I decided to take the camera and check it out by myself. Since then I’ve experienced three typhoon seasons, photographed 10 typhoons and travelled thousands of kilometers along the east coast of Taiwan. I focused on the ‘calm before the storm’ moments, just hours before the typhoon’s arrival. I discovered a different, more poetic and beautiful side of this natural phenomenon.

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“There is this eerie kind of calm before the typhoon.”While there is this eerie kind of calm before the typhoon, at the same time there are a lot of things happening. There are crazy dogs (and other animals) running around the seaside, stressed fishermen having last few moments to secure their boats and nets, local people hiding inside the temples, observing the sea or taking few snapshots of the waves and the coast guards trying to move them away from the danger zones secured by the ‘Crime Scene – Do Not Pass’-style tape.

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The strong wind, heavy waves, the smell and the sound of the sea, almost magical energy and the constant feeling of danger, make this time very special to me. And in the middle of all this, as if inside of the typhoon’s eye, there is this ever-present stillness – so hard to notice in our everyday life.”

"In the middle of all this, as if inside of the typhoon's eye, there is this ever-present stillness."
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All images © Tom Kondrat

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