Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Private Obsession of Miroslav Tichy

(Above) Tichy was known to sit for hours in wait of his unknowing subjects. The photo is in a handmade paper frame.
(Above) Two girls caught in conversation.
(Above) Two “secret” photos by Tichy, who often ran afoul of the law for taking photographs of women on the street.
(Above) A rare photograph, where the subject has actually posed for her photograph (or, at least it seems).
(Above) Processing the photos was also done by extremely primitive means—the result often having bad spots in the development.
(Above) An unknowing female subject gives subject matter for a beautiful picture.
(Above) Tichy, with his hand sewn clothes and his camera... which was made with sewing spools, a lens from found eyeglasses, rubber bands, toilet paper tubes and found cardboard/glue. The result: the oddest working camera you will ever see— something you might see in the movie Mad Max, or WaterWorld—where technology is lost and has to be re-invented.
(Above) A spooky photo of another female. This image is so odd it looks almost like a pre-natal sonogram.

An Accidental Mysteries “Blast from the Past” from January 17, 2009.

MIROSLAV TICHY HAS BECOME FAMOUS in spite of his need for privacy. Born in 1926 in what is now the Czech Republic, Tichy studied painting at the Academy of Art in Prague until the Communist takeover in April 1945. Arrested for being “odd,” therefor subversive, Tichy spent many years in jails and prisons, until he was released in the 1970s. Upon his release, he wandered his small town in rags, pursuing his occupation as an artist photographing the female form in the streets. He made his cameras from tin cans, childrens spectacle lens and other junk he found on the street. He would return home each day to make prints on equally primitive equipment, making only one print from the negative he selected. He stole intimate glimpses of his subjects through windows and the fences of swimming pools as well as in the streets, sometimes finding himself in trouble with the police.

The work, which might appear to the casual viewer to be intrusive voyeurism, takes on a melancholy and poetic quality. They are exquisitely produced small objects of obsession, which have no equal. He produced work, not for others, but for himself, with no regard for selling or exhibiting his pictures. Tichey’s photographs were known only to a few until July 2004, when he won the “New Discovery Award” at Arles. An exhibition of his work was also shown at Kunsthaus in Zurich in September 2005, and was one of the most curious and controversial photographic events of 2005.

Tichy’s work is now red hot. I first saw his work at the Outsider Art Fair in 2007, when it was exhibited by Galerie Susanne Zander, from Antwerp. His work is also exhibited by the Michael Hoppen Gallery in London.

One of the best Web sites on Tichy is the Foundation set up on his behalf: Tichy Ocean.

Some of the above text about Tichy is from the Michael Hoppen Gallery. Top two photos, from Galerie Susanne Zander.


Roz Leibowitz said...

Thanks for posting this. I had not heard of him and I find his work disturbing but very interesting.

John Foster said...

I hear you Roz, the work IS a little disturbing but so are many self-taught artists work, ,i.e., Henry Darger, others. Perhaps he is battling mental illness form years of being in prison—maybe beaten, robbed of hhis youth. Now he is an old, decrepid man. In some ways, I think it's kind sweet, maybe poetic. The man loves women, idolizes them. He doesn't hurt anyone, just captures their likenesses. He has even taken photos of women off of a TV set.

Kim and David said...

I love the secret expressionism of Tichy. One might conclude that he lived his fantasy through the lens of the camera or did he - did the recording of these images mean something entirely different? I would love to have a conversation with him! And, I would love to have the photos too! Very, very interesting post. Kim

Tom Hurley said...

His camera reminds me of the objects you'd find with a Cargo Cult tribe on some distant island. Except that it works.

dani d. said...


i can't stop looking at your blog, there's so much here!!

-dani d.

super-sovak/chibbaro said...

A documentary film called "World Star" was made by young Czech filmmaker Natasa Von Kopp. It's very good, I highly recommend it.

super-sovak/chibbaro said...

The film documents quite well Tichy's very ambivalent relationship with those who seek to profit considerbly from the sale of his work. He says himself, if he gets enough money to buy beer, he's happy. But otherwise couldn't give two sh*ts about the rest of the world.

John D.C. Masters said...

Very inspiring work indeed, if only to construct my own camera...The historical relevance is striking-the hidden observing the innocent, a reflection of totalitarianism, secretive acts from a benign and gentle eye. Lovely. Thanks for the post.

Karen and Sara Brown said...

We love your site, so happy we finally found you!

psizzler said...

wow that was really dope

india flint said...

that's an extraordinary camera
and an amazing sweater

intriguing perspective on the whirled

male said...

Gotta love it!
There is a Yellow Cab driver in Brisbane who snaps (when he can) the panties of his female fares. I have seen these works, he will not show or share these for fear of the trouble they will create.
John, I can share more with you directly via email (but not here)
Cheers from downunder

Paper and Twine Crafty Design, LLC said...

I love the idea of re-creating a camera without using technology.

With the current DIY movement being so popular, you'd think more people would have figured out how to make their own cameras from found objects. Maybe they have and I just haven't seen any...until this post...

carlos_teran said...

The new link for Tichy Ocean is:

Hope you visit them soon.

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