Category Archives: Contemporary Photography

Touching Johor Bahru 1

I've plenty of notes about this place, as well the nights I've spent with the present owner at the 123 Cafe...

The Japanese Photographer in Bali Wave Ghost

In my latest novel, Bali Wave Ghost, there is a character named Kuroyama, who lives directly above the main character, Odie (Mr. Orgasm Donor). Kuroyama is a fictitious character, but one based on my research, life experiences and time-spent-viewing-the-works of photographers like Daido Moriyama, Eikoh Hosoe andAraki, My first introduction to the world of Japanese photography was a book called New Japanese Photography, which was published in conjunction with an exhibition at MOMA in 1974. I imagined what it might be like if an established  Japanese photographer in his "golden years" moved to Bali... an excerpt is below. ............... -the image used as the header was created in Ubud, Bali as part of a collaboration between Stephen Black and Mee-Young Arkim. There are several posts on this blog describing the photographic intentions of the project. Here is the first. -an exhibition by Daido Moriyama is currently being presented as part of the Singapore International Photography Festival -FWIW, in Tokyo I ran SPP, an art space with Barae, a dance/performance artist who occasionally modeled for Araki. Here is the beginning of one chapter from Bali Wave Ghost...


On our bed, an open book. A two-page black and white photo of a naked, hairless Japanese young man in an office. His body is covered with white powder and his head is stretched so far back that the smooth, eyeless surface of his throat is where his face should be. His hands are arthritic. Like a praying mantis pinned to a desk, his body screams at a fluorescent light.

Two hours ago there was a knock on the window. ”Herro. Here I am Kuroyama.” I put on my pants and opened the door. Kuroyama looked like a lost tourist who’d just been shopping. “Do you know butoh?” he asked in his deep voice.

Butoh lives upstairs, I think.”

Kuroyama gave me the crisp white bag he’d been holding. “Butoh is art of death with agitation spirit. Please enjoy with relax feeling.” He smiled. I looked at the sky and discretely pinched myself. Kuroyama lit a cigarette and brought it to his big teeth. “Dance of reaction to human darkness. Also, please be sharing with Miss Francesca.” He smiled again, and nodded with the seriousness of a bow. “Sanku you.” He went upstairs.

It has been quiet since then.

I have a feeling Kuroyama is now directly above me, looking at the same book, the same images, at the same time.

Another black and white image. Grainy. Another Japanese body. Lips, cheekbones, nose. Throat. Her eyes are white dust and her breasts are in rags. Arching against, kicking against a dark wooden floor. Serene yet terrifying, like a long-killed mermaid. Her hair is Fukushima.


Bali Wave Ghost on Amazon

An Open Letter to Facebook Groups with an interest in Tiong Bahru (part 1)

Hello... My name is Stephen Black and I wrote a book called i ate tiong bahru. Regarding Facebook groups that have some type of connection with Tiong Bahru, I have been cautiously respectful. Too many posts about the book may look spammy; if I don't post at all, those genuinely interested in the topics in iatb may not discover it.This post will likely be the last one on this FB page for a while...until the launch party for tiong bahru mouth! A lot of exciting things are happening with iatb, as well as tiong bahru mouth,its soon-to-be-released follow up. BOTTOM LINE (almost): if you are interested in i ate tiong bahru, special offers and discounts, photographs, iatb T-shirts and/or glasses,and tiong bahru mouth please like the Stephen Black AUTHOR Facebook page. or follow this blog. or drop me an email. bookmerah16 AT marq THANK YOU... OK... for those who are interested in the ongoing, and often surprising, iatb experience. The most memorable "review" was from a woman who came up  to me and wanted two more copies. As nice as that was, she nearly made me cry when she said,"I read it to my children".... Asian Art Review wrote the following, three years after iatb was published! artreview-asia-review-of-iatb iatb has sold almost 2000 copies, qualifying it to be called "a Singaporean national bestseller". The follow up book, tiong bahru mouth, is very nearly done. iatb glassified information!iatb-glass Following the trailblazing path of the Thumb Kway artworks, the iatb kopi glass confuses and delights with its simple functionality, its cultural ambiguity and  its postmodern yet nostalgic pop art sensibility. There will soon be a crowdfunding project to fund the production of a limited edition of these glasses, as well as an unlimited edition. However, I now have a number of the glasses, so do let me know if you are interested in getting one. I have already received orders from stores, so things will be interesting. new topic: STORIES..from you! From your relatives or friends! from Tiong Bahru residents who only speak Chinese or Malay or any other language... I would love to listen to you! In case of languages other than English, I will find a translator. PHOTOGRAPHS Besides writing, I'm also an artist/videomaker/gamemaker and photographer. I have a degree in Photographic Illustration from the Rochester Institute of Technology and my works have been exhibited and collected in places like Tokyo, New York, Paris and  Hong Kong. I have been creating images from the second floor entrance of the market... I am testing a "print-on-demand" method of getting the prints to collectors and those interested in the work. To learn more about this and other iatb projects, click here for part 2.   THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST! sb  

The Exciting New Cemetery (casual presentations about photography by Stephen Black)

Who: Stephen Black
What: The Exciting New Cemetery
When: 3-9 PM, Saturday, September 24 and Sunday, September 25.
Where: Isetan, Wisma Atria Level 1 (nearest MRT: Orchard)
Stephen Black will be:
- projecting images from his latest series, entitled Tiong Bahru Mouth. The lens-based images were recorded at the entrance to the second floor of the Tiong Bahru Market.
- discussing, and reading from, his nearly completed book, also entitled Tiong Bahru Mouth.
- discussing a prototype pop up gallery/shop called ay4ya. For this project at Isetan, printing is provided by Samuel Chia (Cacao Editions). Framehub is the official framer.
- presenting the i ate tiong bahru book, Tshirts and kopitiam glasses which are soon to be in a crowdfunding campaign hosted by Zingohub.
The title of this casual, two-day seminar refers to the fact that "Tiong" is the Chinese word for 'cemetery' and "Bahru" is the Malay word for 'new'.
Online papers about photography written by Stephen Black;
Stephen Black graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technogy with a BFA in Photographic Illustration. His photographs and videos have been shown and collected around the world. He works with musicians,most recently 3howBeach Road, his co-production with hiverlab, was featured in the 2015 Brisbane Film Festival and nominated for Best Experimental Film at the 2016 Las Vegas VR Fest.
SPOKEN, a virtual gallery collaboration with Eugene Soh, featured an international collection of artists and writers;curation by Stephen Black.
There will be other activities and presentations as well.
Questions? bookmerah16  at

Tiong Bahru Mouth (images)

This gallery contains 8 photos.

… will require time to write about these…

the exciting new cemetery (discussion of the fine art photography aspect)

A quick review... earlier this week I was given the opportunity to use a section Isetan's Level 1  to use. Located at Wisma Atria, the space is filled with some interesting popups, mainly fashion and lifestyle goods. I have named the space ay4ya. Ay4ya has three aspects.
  1. The Sudden VR Festival
  2. Networking and sharing. There is an open invitation to artists to present their works. Sales and pricing will be discussed and the approval of the organizers  is needed.The artist Rachel Jordan will be involved, for example.
  3. the exciting new cemetery
First, the title. The presentation centers around my book entitled i ate tiong bahru, as well as tshirts and a glass crowdfunding project that will soon be on zingohub. Tiong is a Chinese word meaning "cemetery", bahru is a Malay word meaning "new" and this event at Isetan is exciting! Photographs will be presented. The images that will be taped to the walls are from my series called Tiong Bahru Mouth. The images were recorded in the entrance to the Tiong Bahru Market, over a period of months. They are not meant to be documentary,which is all I can say for now. So... color printouts on the walls...and a laptop displaying the same images, plus more from  the series. I hope to be present to explain the images.  They are for sale... The printing will be done by Samuel Chia/Cacao Editions, whom I have known for quite some time. I considered him to be one of the best printers in Singapore years ago; he has become even more experienced and is always on top of technological advances, as well as  developments with paper and ink. The framing will be done by framehub. Samuel suggested them and from their client list of museums and galleries, I am very fortunate that they have agreed to support this experiment. Photography has always been a part of my life and I have a BFA degree in Photographic Illustration from the Rochester Institute of Technology, with prints in private collections as well as in the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography and Columbia University.  My first show in Singapore, Huge Perpetual World, occurred in 2004, at the Photographers Gallery. Depth took place at Domain Gallery, but that show featured appropriated photographs taken by commercial divers. I have been in involved with the Singapore Biennale, film festivals and online exhibitions, but not with photography. Exciting New Cemetery is an experiment, a workshop of sorts. I plan to invite those with a serious interest in photography. Not to sell to them,but to network and get their opinions. The traditional gallery system is based on social patterns from decades ago. I am very interested in new approaches to art like Arto. With this project, I hope to develop new ways to present work, starting with photographs. Earlier I mentioned that I could not fully explain the motivations and questions behind the Tiong Bahru Mouth series.Writing takes time. However, this collaboration with Mee-Young Arkim, as well as the resultant series of blog posts, provides some related information

Exciting New Cemetery @Isetan Wisma Atria

stephen black exciting new cemetery; involvement with tiong bahru mouth, 3how, photography, Obama Search Words,video,Lorong 16,self-publishing, Fires, Singapore art from 1965-2017, Singapore Personal Art Metadata,SPOKEN,Furikake,limited editions,Contact With Shadow, the art of conversation,Flame Magnet, thumb-shaped kways, Big Homer,Beach Road, Bali Wave Ghost and i ate tiong bahru @ isetan wisma atria from September 6-October 3 The Stephen Black is present everyday except Monday. This will be finalized very soon, but will involve talks,books by Stephen Black, exhibited artworks, digital artworks,artworks for sale, free screenings of the Beach Road 360VR movie, hands on interaction with SPOKEN, the virtual gallery co-created with Eugene Soh and much, much more.... exciting new cemetery jpeg

MegaJakarta 2

MegaJakarta 1 is here.
megaJakarta 2

megaJakarta 2

I have lived in and written about Bali. To live in Bali is to live amongst the tourist industry, the Balinese form of Hinduism and the battle between man and nature. The image above was created at the Jakarta Airport. Noise is the brushstroke of digital photography. Eight links... Tourism in Indonesia It seems to me an interesting idea: that is to say the idea that we live in the description of a place and not in the place itself, and in every vital sense we do. -Wallace Stevens This quote is used in the introduction to "Landscape, Writing and Photography" by Sarah Hill Enlightening Enounters: Photography in Italian Literature Traveller's Visions: French Literary Encounters With Japan 1881-2004 An Archaeology of Architecture: Photowriting the Built Environment Stephen Black video interview on the writing  of Bali Wave Ghost Henry Rollins on Noise and Wolf Eyes “People ask if, as a photographer, I try to relate pictures to particular pieces of music. In the case of Glenn’s albums, we were both concerned with creating a compelling image, without reference to a specific repertoire.”
Legendary photographer, Don Hunstein recalls collaborations with Glenn Gould

MegaJakarta 1

The introduction to the megaJakarta project is here. Jakarta blur plants edited   Embracing the impossibility to fully understand the moment before me. Utilizing technology, choreography and chance to create a two dimensional model and monument. I came to Jakarta with "only" a smart phone. I had a few questions about my relationship with photography. Reflecting upon the time and place captured by the camera as well as the subsequent processing of the image resulted in the statement above. One of my intentions with the megaJakarta project was to find eight links that would offer insights into each image. And so...
  1. Ohio smartphone surrealism
  2. From nothing to this...
  3. Cikini
  4. From nothing to this 2
  5. Delete by haiku
  7. From nothing to this 3
  8. H.G. Wells
On my Facebook page I have posted almost a hundred images taken for the megaJakarta project. Only one or two have been modified, the rest are "unattractive". Here is a sample. The "before" image of the one above.
megaJakarta 1, from camera

megaJakarta 1, from camera

MegaJakarta 2 is here.  


  1. Tourism, travelling, dislocation, diaspora, nothing is stationary from the universal point of view, invisible connections
  2. Portrait of time spent in Jakarta, portrait of Jakarta, documentation of travelling through Jakarta, documentation of interaction with the people of Jakarta.
  3. "All art is self-portraiture." Yasumasa Morimura
  4.  This is unBeat. I intensely dislike On the Road yet admire the marketing campaign that converted that lengthy piece of terrible typing into a touchstone for a generation.
  5. Working seriously with, for the first time, a mobile phone, an  "old" Samsung. Also utilizing every Facebook feature I possibly can.
  6. Though it is an impossibility, megaJakarta is created with a total disregard for the audience and the industries of Art, Photography Video and Literature. Those who suffer through this four day ordeal may see a reversal of this approach.
  7. Portrait of Jakarta, Documentation of time spent in Jakarta, Capturing moments in Jakarta, Documentations of Jakarta created in less than one second, Ignoring photography while using a camera in Jakarta, self-portraiture using Jakarta as a substitute for the self.
  8. Ignoring marketing principles, especially those connected to social media, to create an art and text based commodity.
MegaJakarta 1 is here.