Arts Miroslav Tichy: A voyeur with a home-made camera

21-07-2006 13:15 | Jarka Hálková

The photographer Miroslav Tichy became known in the Czech Republic only recently, after he achieved major success abroad. His unusual photographs have been exhibited in galleries in London, New York, Zurich and although they are of very poor technical quality visitors and critics are impressed. The photographs are now sold for up to ten thousand euros.

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Miroslav TichyMiroslav Tichy Nearly 80 years old, Tichy is regarded as a real eccentric by his neighbors in Kyjov, a small Moravian town. His work reflects his obsession with the female body. But while other photographers ask women to pose, and use the best equipment and store photographs with a big care, Tichy did the opposite.

He used to hide in bushes and take pictures of unaware women and girls with his home-made cameras. Once developed they were thrown away and Tichy didn't care about them anymore.

"They are all very careful observations of women from Kyjov and of everyday trivial activities. But soon you realize that these trivial situations such as someone sitting on a bench, women waiting for a bus, someone taking a T-shirt off at a swimming pool, are somehow extraordinary. Tichy managed to give this banality a feeling of exceptionality and rarity. Just part of a female body in his pictures can look very esoteric. There are so many magazines that offer much more nudity than Tichy but his photographs are different. A woman's tights between a knee and a skirt or a swimming costume in his pictures look somehow mysterious."

Says Radek Horacek, the director of The Brno House of Art which is currently running an exhibition of Tichy's photographs.

"It is like when an eleven years old boy falls in love, steals a photograph of his classmate and cherishes it in his notebook. Tichy even sketched on it, drew frames with a pen or a pencil. Some of the photographs were taken from TV, some were just thrown here and there. Some romantics say that there even are traces of mice nibbling at pictures in the unbelievable mess."

In the 1940s Tichy studied at Academy of Fine Arts in Prague but after the communist takeover in 1948 he dropped out of the school and returned to Moravia. The solitary artist started with paintings, figurative drawings and settled with photography, sticking to his main motive - women. Back in the 60s he used to make about 90 pictures a day. Unnoticed and unknown he behaved like a voyeur trying to capture a precious moment.

"When I was a little boy, my grandmother used to tell me: "Wash your hands - otherwise you are going to be like Mirek Tichy." For my grandmother he was a forbidding example. For me he has always been a magnet," says Roman Buxbaum, the person who introduced the name Tichy to the world.

The photographer's friend from childhood, he emigrated to Switzerland with his parents. When he after many years returned to his birthplace he discovered the photographs and started exhibiting them abroad.

"These days there are plenty of artists that take photographs. They have the most modern digital equipment and the best computer software. They all try to make their pictures look crude. They want something like a document of a reality. But can you believe a thirty-year-old university graduate? Does he really know what is crude? It is simply impossible, especially in comparison to Miroslav Tichy. He lurks in a horrible worn out coat and - from behind bushes and walls - takes photographs of fragments of female nudity or the steps of a woman walking down a street."

The exhibition in Brno has created a lot of interest, especially among locals. Some of them come hoping that they will recognize one of the many women and girls captured in the photographs. Others come to see what has made that strange old alcoholic man so famous.

The photographs are puzzling. They are not focused, not well developed and damaged by weather and careless handling. They were never meant to be exhibited and even now Miroslav Tichy objects to the success and fame. He carefully chooses the people he talks to and shares his opinions with. He has described exhibitions as a waste of time and says this world is nothing more than "a double shit".

"He had to take such bad photographs to be the best photographer. You can't take good photographs to be the best - but you have to take the worst to be the best."

Pavel Vancat the author of a monograph about Miroslav Tichy paraphrases the photographer's own words about his approach and continues with his opinion.

"I think these pictures have a really special atmosphere of the time when they were made. They have a special magic as work that has arisen from one man's endeavor. It is like a tombstone to one very special life. It might influence a lot of people. On the other hand, he stands quite aside from any other group of artists. And he is a quite solitary person. Many people might like it and many people do like it but I doubt that there will be something like a 'Tichy school'."

To find out more information about the exhibition visit www.dumb.cz

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