Springtime Nightmare

By Joel Pulliam

I moved to Tokyo with my family in 2018. For nearly two years, life was happy. Then, without warning, my young daughter died.

Can art begin to convey a father’s grief?  Over three hundred years ago, the haiku poet Raizan Konishi wrote after the loss of his own child:

I must be crazy

to not be crazy in this

crazy springtime nightmare

Springtime nightmare, indeed. Outside, the pandemic widens, and emergency orders quiet the city.  Snow falls out of season, blanketing the cherry blossoms. Human contact fades. The streets near my home, once so familiar, appear alien. I wander them, point my camera, and press the shutter. The only images I seem able to capture are those that reflect my own inner state.


Joel Pulliam was born in the United States in 1974.  He studied history and literature at Harvard College, then law at Harvard Law School.  Until 2018, he worked at the United States Department of the Treasury.  Currently, he lives in Tokyo, where his black-and-white photography of the city has been recognized by publications such as the Asahi Shimbun newspaper and Asahi Camera magazine.  His long-term projects center on various areas of Tokyo that have been neglected by other photographers.

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3 thoughts on “Springtime Nightmare | By Joel Pulliam”

  1. These photographs, especially given the context of the loss of a child, and the current pandemic are very moving. We see a sense of disorientation, confusion, loss, frustration, anger, and, maybe, hope.
    This pandemic and lockdown, while giving us time to reflect and re-group, is deeply disquieting.
    Speaking personally, these photographs resonate with me. This isolation, combined with the loss of my mother last summer, with whom I was very close, often leave me feeling bewildered, disoriented and hopeless. Thanks for this.
    I just have to add, the photograph of the pigeon is amazing.

  2. Hey Joel, I’m very sorry for your loss. Don’t know if you are familiar with Nick Cave? He lost a son a few years back and has been writing about it in ways that many people find very comforting. His music is not for everyone, but Skeleton Tree and Ghosteen deal with his despair and recovery, such as it is. He’s also writing what is more or less an advice column and many of the questions and answers deal with that kind of loss. I can’t recommend it highly enough, also for anyone just interested in the artistic process. https://www.theredhandfiles.com/

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