Current Affairs First Prague exhibition for internationally renowned “voyeur” photographer Miroslav Tichý

16-12-2010 16:14 | Ian Willoughby

Miroslav Tichý was nearly 80 years old when the surreptitious photographs he had taken of women and girls decades earlier were exhibited publicly for the first time. Combined with his biography – he is a tramp-like recluse – the voyeuristic pictures’ eerie quality made Tichý an international art sensation. This week the first Prague exhibition of his work got underway.

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Miroslav TichýMiroslav Tichý Miroslav Tichý is now 84 and in poor health. He was recently released from a mental hospital, and has no direct contact with the outside world.

His fame is based on the thousands of photographs he took of women and girls in his hometown of Kyjov in Moravia between the 1960s and the mid 1980s.

Using remarkable home-made cameras and even zoom lenses, the eerie, out of focus shots were taken while unsuspecting local females went about their daily business. Many of his subjects were captured through the fence of the local swimming pool, from which he was barred.

Photo: Miroslav TichýPhoto: Miroslav Tichý Once developed and printed, the black-and-white photographs were deliberately mistreated. Some were left out in the rain, others gnawed by rats.

Tichý was “discovered” by Roman Buxbaum, a former neighbour living in exile in Switzerland. He collected the recluse’s work over a 25-year period, introducing him to the world via a collection of photos and a documentary film in 2004. (Tichý last year severed all ties with Buxbaum).

Since that time his photographs have been shown at some of the world’s most prestigious museums. The leading Czech curator and art dealer Jiří Švestka put on an exhibition of Tichý’s pictures at his gallery in Berlin last year.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK “Tichý is an enfant terrible, not only in the Czech, but European, and even world context. He won that international attention in a guerrilla or anarchistic style for the way he – completely outside the mainstream – produced great work, great photographs.”

Miroslav Tichý has studiously avoided the limelight, refusing to speak to the media or attend openings. In press photos he is dishevelled to say the least, with long hair and a thick beard, and wearing filthy clothes.

But he is not simply a pervy hermit who accidentally created artistic gold. He is also a painter, and studied at Prague’s Academy of Fine Arts. Jiří Švestka says there was method to his approach, and a reason he has found a dedicated following.

Photo: Miroslav TichýPhoto: Miroslav Tichý “Some critics say that Tichý saved photography. Photography had developed into something stylised, something manipulated. And he returned to the form the magic of a moment, point of view, and voyeurism. He studied art, he’s no amateur, or somebody naïve but talented. He knows the principles of composition, the history of photography. His work is simply unique, and I think the next five or ten years will show just how unique an artist he is.”

An exhibition of Tichý’s pictures was put on in Brno, which is near Kyjov, in 2006. But Prague’s art lovers have had to wait until now to see his unique photography at first hand, with the opening this week of an exhibition entitled Forms of Truth at the city’s Old Town Hall. It runs until March 6.

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