Category Archives: glossis

byo graphy

"byo" is the Japanese word for second, as in 1/60th of a minute... A work in progress, started in October 2013, and inspired by an exhibition at the Ikkan Gallery  in Singapore. The exhibition featured selections from the Pace/ MacGill Gallery in New York. Although the Ikkan Gallery produced a PDF catalogue, it seems to be no longer available. Interested parties can drop me a line and I will send one. The following is  a sampler. The next version will provide proper information about the images as well as text. To see several pages of chaotic notes, visit here: There is also this:
A photograph of a photograph by Ansel Adams

A photograph of a photograph by Ansel Adams

The foundation for the text is the Masters of Photography Exhibition, held in Singapore in late 2013. The exhibition featured works from the Pace/MacGill Gallery and was held at Ikkan International.

Words on Photographs (working title)

About the author, Stephen Black:

WORDS ON PHOTOGRAPHS (working title)

My favourite thing is to go where I've never been. - Diane Arbus

This  is the start of a text/internet project about a photography show that opened in Singapore on October 23, 2013. Have no idea what the final form will be, despite the fact that it has been toyed with very few days since early October, 2013.

The press release for the show can be found here:

The exhibition includes works by:

Diane Arbus

Hai Bo

Harry Callahan

William Christenberry

Chuck Close

William Eggleston

Robert Frank

Lee Friedlander

Emmet Gowin

Paul Graham

Richard Misrach

Irving Penn

Robert Rauschenberg

Lucas Samaras

Hiroshi Sugimoto

Joann Verburg

William Wegman

WARNING: This is raw, unfinished writing and/or notes. You are seeing a story being built and it may not all make sense..... Aiming to have this done by early December. Total word count not yet known.


A full day at the library was inspiring. I took notes, photocopied, got lost in and rolled my eyes at these books:

(Skim through to the comments section. Online, there is also this

Hope to find/read this:

Partial collection of notes from the opening

Exhibition catalogue PDF

Air conditioned air, the small sounds of people walking and talking in other parts

of this white space. The lights are focused upon images, large images. From the entrance one confronts/is confronted by an image on

the other side of the space, a photograph of a Caucasian man’s face, three meters across by five meters high.

I should respect these images. They reflect society and society says that this image is worth ??? thousand dollars. This image, existing in a network that will (with more money,time and verbiage) proclaim that its value has increased.

Economists enjoy contemplating things like this. Air and water, for example are the most valuable and necessary things on earth. They are free. No one needs this photograph in order to exist. Or do they?

If possessions determine identity and identity is necessary for mental well-being and survival and owning this image defines the owner, then the value becomes a quicksilvery object of great value.

- Masterpieces found in flea markets, the value of a Damien Hirst decreasing by

millions overnight.

Time era age shutter speed decisive moment

The danger of including my own experiences. Accusations of arrogance, If I do, I do so with reluctance and in a spirit of efficiency;self as recorder. I have a degree in photographic Fine Art and worked as a photographer before I could drive. I have been an observer, if not a participant in the the photographic art worlds of Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris and New York. A tiny fish,--no plankton ,in a very big pond…

Cameras:X-15, Canon Ftb, Canon F1, Polaroid Sx 70, disposable cameras of all kinds, Fuji instant camera, Ebony 4 x5 , Hasselblad, phone cameras and digital cameras of all kinds...Normally this type of talk annoys me, but here it provides historical context. Cameras as a metaphor; literary devices. Film and what it mean to develop film and make a print.  Man Ray’s

quote about Art is not photography.

There is no progress in art, any more than there is progress in making love. There are simply different ways of doing it.

  • Throughout time painting has alternately been put to the service of the Church, the State, arms, individual patronage, scientific phenomena, anecdote and decoration … all the marvelous works that have been painted, whatever the sources of inspiration, still live for us because of absolute qualities they possess in common. The creative force and the expressiveness of painting reside materially in the colour and texture of pigments, in the possibilities of form invention and organisation, and in the flat plane on which these elements are brought into play.

    • As quoted in "American Modernists in Painting take the Public into their Confidence" in Current Opinion Vol LX, No. 5 (May 1916), p. 351

a personal essay about a life being influenced by the writing and work of Man Ray

A creator needs only one enthusiast to justify him.

Man Ray

Paul Graham street scene New York centric

No theme. Ikkan blurs the boundary between gallery and museum. Defining what this space is . A store, a wine cellar, an investment house where emotions, intimacies and philosophies are commodities.

Speculators taste. Educational intent far cannot find images he was making around 1989. I THINK there were some of his images at Min Tanaka’s Body Farm art event in Hakushu. The images were stapled to fences along a dusty road. Black and white shorescapes in which there were many lights, possibly candles. The effect was something like connect-the-dots but the dots were white small suns hovering over rocks and sand….

Maybe talk about Japanese photography and contrast Araki, Sugimoto, Daido Moriyama and Morimura….Hosoe...Hosoe RIT story, snippet of imagery...

Emmet Gowin

The installation was more complicated than usual as the Singapore Biennale had swept up all of the art movers and installers, more had to be brought in from Indonesia and China. Biennale advertising. Halutrans

Chuck Close portraits of Rauschenberg and Lichtenstien; his signature so big. Ego

or compositional device; Polaroid’s white space can make the most luscious graceful

composition seem top heavy.The surprise of the show is by a corner,on a table is

a black rectangular box. Inside, like a daguerrotype is the the image of a lily... Calia lily.

Calia from the Greek word for beauty, a ghost flower, airy. Silvery. Haunting.

The opening was like any opening. Aperture. A destination for those interested in viewing,

discussing and investing in fine art photography. Waiters carrying trays of things like

chicken teriyake and bartenders pouring glasses of red and white wine. The usual.

Aboriginal art

Galerie Steph

Richard Koh

Rauschenberg’s works beautiful but normal, with two exception

Arbus; sword swallower, X mas tree black structure as symbol of depression?

Stars: Callahan Eleanor Kyannon, Venus

Eleanor in the water

Callahan. Was at the beach with my girlfriend. The sun went down spectacularly, but it was the afterglow that interested me the most. The horizon. I photographed the horizon, attracted to the line between the two dark blues of sea and sky.Then Sugimoto tapped me on the shoulder.

I photographed my girlfriend in the water and then Callahan tapped me on the shoulder.

Penn’s portrait of Francis Bacon BECAUSE OF THE CRUMPLED PAPER ON THE


Robert Frank. Images from the Americans.

New Order music video

Rauschenberg photos

Film Stars as a title? Film Stars and xxxxxxxxxx more rhythm and info?


Written during the installation

About photography, about a photography show, about a moment.I saw about 80% of the show, during its installation. Beautiful and thought-provoking works, of course. Again, the question of a theme. Works resting on cushions ob the floor, waiting to be hung. I savour the fleeting moment, the unusual angle. Everyone will see these fastened to the wall.

Eyes. I jotted down some notes and the ‘eyes’ in the show attracted my interest. The tolerant, slightly amused eyes of Wegman’s dogs, the closed eyes of Callahan’s wife, the no-nonsense black stare of Picasso…

This I found very interesting:

Again, the importance of context. Again, relevancy to audience. Over 200,000 readers have seen this. It would seem to have value.

Except for the number of readers, the above statements are also true for this:

From Scribd I was led to the website of photographer/writer Alexis Clements and this essay

More food for thought.

Introduction to SB

Introduction to Show

-Ikkan (background; Tokyo, Paris, NYC, Singapore)

Must be careful as it is easy to be labeled as being self-promotional and/or advertorial. At the same time background information adds credence and depth to the text.

Fine Art Photography in Singapore current and past situation

-Pieces...which one first? The show may not have a theme, but the writing must.The catalogue starts with Diane Arbus.

I always thought of photography as a naughty thing to do -- that was one of my favorite things about it, and when I first did it, I felt very perverse. - Diane Arbus, On Photography by Susan Sontag , ISBN: 0385267061

PERHAPS one part of the essay contrasts film-based vs. digital. Avoid cliches and sounding like a lecturing old man. The facts are interesting and speak for themselves.  A related blog post:

As the darkroom was to silver, so is software to digital? Most current example being the Lytro nonfocus camera, which allows the image to be refocused after the exposure has been made.

What moves me about...what's called that it comes from some mysterious deep place. I mean it can have something to do with the paper and the developer and all that stuff, but it comes mostly from some very deep choices  somebody has made that take a long time and keep haunting them. - Diane Arbus

For me the subject of a picture is always more important than the picture. And more complicated. - Diane Arbus -

"Diane Arbus" New York: Don Arbus and the Estate of Diane Arbus and Aperture Foundation, Inc., 1972, page 15

Hai Bo


The show has no theme. Perhaps a starting point is to look at the ages of the artists, their ages when the image was created.

Personal interaction: Rauschenberg story, Robert Frank at YFVA, Callahan Tokyo earthquake,

THREE COATS I like this as a title. For now, anyway. The large, all-white gallery is being painted with dark green and dark red bands so that the photos will

not be lost against the large walls. It will take three coats of paint. Three coats reminds me of the idea of someone who wears more than one hat, that is

someone who can do two or three things....In this project I am writing as an artist, as a historian of sorts and as a person who has interacted with some of

the pieces and/or photographers.

Susan Sontag. Now seems to be the time to sit down with On Photography...

and On the Pain of Others perhaps he could be interviewed?

Interview people from around the world. Have them look at the show with skype….

Owl Creek Incident, On Kawahara, On Photography

film digital


WOW but s l o w l y

The show at Ikkan gallery will include some photographs taken by Robert Rauschenberg... Maybe I will include the following. Maybe not.


The late Eighties, New York City, a warm autumn Sunday afternoon. I'm walking in front of of the Tower Records on Lafayette. A large black car, like a limousine,

at the curb with a U-haul trailer behind it.  I walk by. The door opens and Mike Wallace gets out, very tan and with a paper cup in hand. Smiling, like the skipper of a yacht.

I pass by and then suddenly realize I need to get some blank video tapes at Tower. I spin around to see Mike doing a kind of awkward jig; stretching his legs, rolling his shoulders

and swiveling his arms. Except it isn't Mike Wallace-it's Robert Rauschenberg, now almost directly in front of me.

" Hello Mr. Rauschenberg". He smiles and says 'hello' right back. A conversation starts, the highlight of which involves a terrible pun about "popping over to Japan".

I am soon on my way, with an opening party invite in hand.

Quite late, I went to the opening, someplace uptown. The place was empty but for Rauschenberg and the woman who seemed to run the gallery. They spoke in quiet

businesslike voices. I circled a few of the brightly painted crushed wire sculptures, left before I was noticed.


W Wegman SPP Polaroid William Wegman has had a strong influence upon me. His work is Pop, it is personal and it is usually bursting with idea.  is just as more of a Pop artist than Warhol, yet William Wegman”s work is personal. Performance art with pets. The first time I was really hit over the head with by a piece of contemporary art was in a little bookstore in the basement of the Ikebukuro subway station.  A small paperback book contained a collection of photographs of Wegman”s work.

One showed a simple and small collection of kitchen utensils, One or two were obviously spoons and one or two were clearly forks. The functional part of the other utensils was not included in the composition. The piece was entitled something like ‘Two or Three Forks and Three or Four Spoons’. Something like that. What struck me was that relationship to the title and the piece itself: conceptual art first and photographic art  second.

The other image in the book which struck me  was a self-portrait of Wegman holding two books. Simple and striking, one eye was clearly focused on one book and the other eye was intent upon the other. This was well before Photoshop, of course. The simplicity of the black and white photograph made the image powerful, made it True.

I’ve met William Wegman, met him on the street in Manhattan. Probably a few dozen other people can say that as his dogs need to go outside every now and then and he is approachable. What is unique about our meeting was that he kindly invited me to witness a shoot going on in his loft, a shoot going on with Polaroid camera that produced images that were 20 x 24 inches long. Was the camera impressive? Certainly. So was the fact that there was a TV crew from Japan there who was documenting the production of a book that retold the story of Cinderella- but with costumed Weimaraner  dogs portraying the characters.

The feeling was 10% Andy Warhol’s factory, 80% canine Holiday on Ice, 10% friend’s living room. But the camera was what commanded my attention.

I was living in Tokyo at the time, and ran into WW during a stay in NYC. Earlier that year I had held an exhibition at the Polaroid Gallery in Tokyo. It had gone reasonably well. Just before I left Tokyo I had begun an investigation into the possibility of using the 20 x 24 inch Polaroid camera. About a week later I received a reply. There were only three of the cameras in the world. One was in Osaka and that one was being overhauled. Another was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the home of Polaroid. The other one was being used somewhere was all my contact could tell me.

I’ll bet that the portraits that Chuck Close took of Rauschenberg and Lichtenstein were also created with that camera…

relationship between gallery  showrooms and ivory towers….

art, like war, can function as entertainment

eye, lens aperture, doorway. The room as something like a piece of film, recording impressions. Perhaps not Ikkan’s but a museum….

Purity, Irritation Money

Bus Monet (photographic series)


GRAND STOP (collaboration with Daniel Bainbridge)

If you clicked the link above, you know that no longer exists, unfortunately. The collection of images put together for Glossi really captured one of the most enjoyable at art experiences of my life. Dan had the talent and the space; I just had a lot of energy. Dan's sculptures and the stuff I found combined in the most beautiful ugly funny serious way possible.

I have to post the rest, make the time to do a portfolio.

post modern nativity scene
Grand Stop Installation (one of several installation views)

Contact With Shadow

The above video was made for a Kickstarter project to get Contact With Shadow funded. It was likely the first Singapore-based crowdfunding project, and it fell far short of its goal. No one in Singapore really understood what crowdfunding was, I had no 'fans", unknown writer, it was not easy to send money, etc. etc. I learned a lot.

Contact With Shadow combines a history of printing in Singapore with one man's intense grief. Molecular food figures prominently as well.

Contact With Shadow is on


Full of an insane amount of grief, Singaporean history, printing press lore and sweet memories of love, to read Contact With Shadow is to experience loss-- and redemption.
The story: a Cambridge research student comes to Singapore to learn about the island's pre-Linotype printing history. His wife, an amateur chef, is killed by lightning. Overwhelmed with a sense of loss, he struggles to write his thesis. More often than not, his words are about the woman he loved. A bureaucratic "assistant" enters the picture, as does a Hollywood producer...
Contact With Shadow is an experience, not just a reading experience.

"It's a double pleasure to read this... First, there's the joy of gleaning nuggets of knowledge about Singapore and the printed word hitherto unknown; and second, there's the childlike wonder of never knowing what Stephen Black has in store for us on the next page."

~ Ng Yi-Sheng, 2008 Winner of the Singapore Literature Prize

The cover was created by Debbie Ding and Shazanah Hassan.

There was once an exhibition about Contact With Shadow
at the WOODS IN THE BOOKS Bookshop (Singapore)


It grew from the ground and the grass punched her and the metal on her sandals sparked. Her jeans opened as I watched her hair change. My wife was in the air. Her mouth distorted as the muscles around her eyes bulged and creased. The brightness disappeared. Still in the air, her fingers stretched as though someone’d yanked a wire in her arm. She fell and I ran to her in the sound of the bang. I touched her lips.


I feel this project is my lifework. I mourn the loss of the handwritten letter as well as all of the handcrafted printing machinery created before the Age of Linotype.


Sentosa... A Malay word meaning ‘tranquil’. In the interview it is mentioned that the Sarkies brothers, who were Armenian, used the name Sentosa for their house on Bukit Timah Road. The Sarkies Brothers are most famous for having established Raffles Hotel.


There’s some jazz on the hi-fi and everyone’s on the verandah. Helen’s beautiful in her strapless dress and her cheeks are glowing and this will be even better than drunken Bugis with its balconies full of bouncing transsexual breasts. This will be better than the blue movie at Maxine’s birthday party. “A pervert!" Helen says again. “Leather and shoes!”


We’d just arrived. It was very late, we were jetlagged and we didn’t have any Singapore money. We made rice with olive oil and furikake and drank a small bottle of 7-11 wine using a chipped coffee cup. Dessert was a mango, eaten by candlelight. I told her about the Tamil king who was given a magic mango, one that would make him immortal. He served it to his favorite poet.


Dr. Jack knew how to communicate with the future and he was obviously using a code. About two hundred years ago he sent a message on its way to me.


Plantin’s legendary studio was the Silicon Valley of 16th Europe, full of elegance and the world’s most sophisticated ink measuring and application technologies. Now, thankfully, it is a museum. We went. We held hands, her heart racing like mine. The drawings were there — Garamond’s original drawings**!The 380 drawings that Claude Garamond brought to life! The drawings are a monument, a landmark in the evolution of European printing and civilization! Garamond’s font of 1540, the masterpiece he created for King Francois!


We finally left the Sri Lankans and found a bus back to Boon Lay. We laughed upon seeing the Cambridge Industrial Park on Pioneer Road. On the train she told me about a new food she was creating. Two people will sit at a table with a very large glass tray between them. The tray will hold a liquid food and in the liquid will be floating white foods. Each person will use a dark sauce to write words on the white food. The staff will then turn on hidden fans to move the white foods, as if they are sailing, or floating like icebergs. 'Icewords' is what I am calling it.


We finally got home and went to sleep and now I’m waking up and she is not here. Forever.

the bestselling book, I Ate Tiong Bahru: “Unlike anything else I’ve read…”


A national bestseller in Singapore, I Ate Tiong Bahru is a collection of short stories about the food, people and history of Tiong Bahru, an estate composed of uniquely styled Art Deco buildings.

Dynamic, personal and well-researched, I Ate Tiong Bahru is an inviting piece of original writing.

"Black's love letter is one of the best introductions to a country and a state that you might read."

(Art Review Asia)


Read one story for free! Deepavali at Galicier is here. (The short video below is Gallicier during Chinese New Year.)

i ate tiong bahru on Goodreads.

i ate tiong bahru audio book

"... I Ate Tiong Bahru, your exquisite 'lyrical documentary' on Tiong Bahru, which gave me many hours of pure pleasure...
I wish I'd read it before visiting the estate, and still in Singapore so I would be able to go there again.
It's in Paris that I read it, and followed all your descriptions and encounters, street by street, on my detailed map of Singapore... I loved your book."


Expat Living Review

Kitaab Review

An award, of sorts.

他不想把中巴鲁写的纸上完完美美,他把最真实的经历和故事, 用简单有趣的方式呈现给读者。
从在 Galicier 西饼店学做英式蛋糕和娘惹糕,到在巴刹的扶梯下观察路人的举动和表情,他仿佛在和中巴鲁谈恋爱。一段非比寻常的恋爱。

"I ate Tiong Bahru"
By Mr. Stephen Black.

Review by Jacob Tan Wei

"We can't turn back time; the past can only be reminisced.

Indeed, the past can only be reminisced. Today, I met my new soulmate at Tiong Bahru. This Caucasian man had not only written the sentiments towards Tiong Bahru of its people, but also the past and memories of those departed. He didn't want to write on the perfections; he used lighthearted humour to describe those raw experiences and stories. From learning how to bake English and Nonya pastries at Galicier to observing passersby from below the escalator, it was like a courtship of sorts between him and Tiong Bahru. He had triggered our memories; not only had he given all those who hold great sentiments of this place a little consolation and joy, but also the freedom of discovery for those who are curious about this place. This Caucasian man's tenderness had humbled me greatly. I ate Tiong Bahru by Mr. Stephen Black."

A blog post about the Hungry Ghost Festival

iatb was the only ebook featured in Eugene Soh's revolutionary web art project:

IATB in virtual gallery


La Bruschetta in the Rainy Season