Thoughts from the exhibition.
I am Joel Pulliam. (If you’re not sure who I am or just want to learn a bit more about me, here is an interview I recently gave to the Tokyo International Foto Awards.) This is my monthly newsletter in which I discuss my own photography and, sometimes, the photography scene in Tokyo generally. I am glad you are reading.
I am writing this at Clouds Art + Coffee in Koenji, Tokyo. It’s a wonderful gallery which also happens to serve fantastic cold brew coffee. If you missed my last newsletter, I’m here as part of the Tokyo Street Photography 2021 exhibition. The VoidTokyo collective and invited guests are exhibiting here, with photographers from two other groups around the corner at Blank Gallery. There are still a few days to visit—everything ends on Sunday.
Looking at the fourteen photographers who are exhibiting here at Clouds, I am surprised by how introspective the work is. Not the usual high energy in your face work that is often associated with Tokyo street photography. And it is exploratory of new ideas and visions, as well. Kawara Chan has exchanged monochrome for a palette shining with autumnal gold. Tatsuo Suzuki, known for gritty, high energy photos, is featuring a number of peaceful, nearly empty streets. Unexpected and beautiful.
The most striking works may be those of Tadashi Onishi, from his “Unhighlighted” series. Onishi has applied fluorescent acrylic paint to the backgrounds of four of his photographs, leaving the subject “Unhighlighted.” He explains that, “one of the roles of street photography is to make the ordinary extraordinary, but aren’t we getting too caught up in that? By highlighting the background and unhighlighting the subject I present this as an antithesis to snapshots that record the every day as it is.”
Notably, Onishi has previously projected the same photographs on the walls of Tokyo at night (without the paint of course!). His photographs of the resulting interactions are found in his section of VoidTokyo Vol. 7. Onishi tells me that, “by using the same photo but in a different way, I tried to show that a photo can be read in different ways depending on how it is presented.”
Speaking of: I’m grateful to everyone who has purchased a copy of VoidTokyo Vol. 7. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed helping to make it. We’re almost sold out, but there are still a few copies left, so if you’re interested, click here. Some are also available at the Tsutaya bookstore in Shibuya and the Junkudo bookstore in Ikebukuro, if you’re in Tokyo. And we have some at the gallery.
As for me, the photos I am showing at the exhibition are a first look at some new work in progress, titled 無常 (Impermanence). It is a meditation on how life can change in a second or a minute. These are long exposures, shot from a tripod. I hold the shutter open and let moments drift by, surrendering control of the image and waiting to see what the city may offer.
Being an exploration of transience and mortality, there is a direct thread to this project from Old River, my series that explores time and change through photos of Tokyo’s nearly forgotten Furukawa River. After a few stops and starts earlier this year, I am making solid progress toward realizing Old River as a book—in fact, I’m now working with a talented designer, making further improvements and choosing paper. But more on that in the next newsletter, I think.
For now, I’m enjoying talking to the visitors who are coming to the exhibition. If you have a chance to drop by Koenji on Saturday, I’ll be here again from 1:00 to 7:00. The iced coffee is indeed delicious, perfect for a Tokyo summer.
Until next month, take care.