Photographer Snaps Nearly A Hundred Photos a Day With Homemade Camera
Miroslav Tichý, was a photographer that constructed his own homemade cameras out of cardboard tubes, tin cans, dress elastic and old camera parts he found. From 1960 to 1985 he used these homemade cameras to snap thousands of images around town often of unsuspecting women. It wasn’t till 1981 that one of his friends gathered up prints strewn all over his studio, and organized them to share with the world through photo exhibitions, that Tichý’s work would finally be discovered.
Tichý was known around town as a rebel, an eccentric man, even the boogyman. He ceased to care how he looked, dressing like a vagabond, possibly expressing his rebellion through his personal appearance. Tichý began experimenting with photography in 1962, before that he was a painter. When asked why he changed from painting to photography he answered, “All drawings have already been drawn. All paintings have already been painted. What was there left for me to do?”
After shooting throughout the day, Tichý would return to his cluttered mess of a studio to process his film and create his prints. These prints would often end up in stacks on the table or the ground and were damaged throughout the years by dirt, dust, rats and insects. It wasn’t until a friend, Roman Buxbaum, suggested that they try to conserve the prints and bought up many of his images which were later displayed in numerous photo exhibitions in various countries.
Tichý later severed ties with his friend Buxbaum and even tried to end the propagation of his work through a notarized letter that said he never gave Buxbaum permission to share his work. Tichý shot photographs for himself, not for the world. As an artist today we often create work and immediately try to share it with the world trying to get as many likes as we can on Facebook, retweets, pins or hearts on Instagram. Fame mattered nothing to Tichý.
Buxbaum said, “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 Tichý. 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.”
Radio Prague in their article about Tichý says, “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”.
As I looked through his work at first I’ll admit that my first thought was ‘what is so special about these shots.’ But the more I learned about Tichý, his homemade cameras and his love for the art as something that brings inner joy not fame, I was drawn back into his work. The more I studied it the more I enjoyed the mysterious shots, the body lines, the quality of pictures from his ‘toy cameras’ and even the damage to the prints over the years. The photos carry a lot of stories with them and ultimately as photographers I believe that is what we all strive to accomplish.
“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 ‘Tichý school’.” – Pavel Vancat the author of a monograph about Miroslav Tichy.
Here are a few films I found on YouTube while learning about the work of Tichý. One is a feature film about him and his work produced in 2007, the other a trailer from the film produced about in 2004 called Tarzan Retired. Tichý died on April 12, 2011 in the same town he was born and lived in throughout his life, Kvjov, Czech Republic.