When Polish-born photographer Tom Kondrat arrived in Iceland to start his first “proper” photography project, his subjects were nowhere to be found. “The idea was to document the life of people during the darkest and coldest time of the year between 26th of November and 16th of January,” he tells Co.Design over email. “But of course most of the people spent their time at homes watching TV or surfing the Internet, so there was only one idiot freezing in his car.”
So Kondrat found himself driving all over the island in his rented Subaru Forester (which he rolled twice during the trip), exploring the furthest reaches of the country alone. “I have this image in mind from one geography lesson when I was a child,” he says. “All of these mysterious white areas on the map, volcanoes, geysers, also the lowest population density in Europe. I liked these kind of stats.”
Armed with two Pentacon Six cameras–an East German model inherited from his dad–Kondrat shot dozens of snow-swept landscapes during each day’s 5.5 hours of sunlight. The bitter cold didn’t help. The cameras couldn’t handle the sub-zero temperatures, and he eventually had to cut the trip short. But the images that he did capture are remarkable, sublime, and perfectly suited to the 1970s medium format. Valleys and plateaus appear scale-less, as though they were molded out of clay. Even the air itself looks like a kind of ghostly, saturated vapor.
Between Iceland’s sentient social media presence and films like Sigur Ros’s Heima, the Internet is almost over-saturated with imagery of the country. Kondrat’s barren, atmospheric take on the storied land is somehow more interesting–this is the Iceland you imagine as the backdrop to the brutal, bloody Icelandic Sagas of yore.