The artist with the bad camera

Miroslav Tichý made a camera from tin cans, cardboard and rubber bands - the results were unusual
Homemade camera

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Miroslav Tichý with his camera

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Miroslav Tichý, MT Inv. no: 1-37

3 / 5 Miroslav Tichý, MT Inv. no: 1-37

Miroslav Tichý, MT Inv. no: 1-41

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Miroslav Tichý, MT Inv. no: 1-205

5 / 5 Miroslav Tichý, MT Inv. no: 1-205

With what could accurately be described as the worst camera ever made, Miroslav Tichý (1926 – 2011) would take sneaky, surreptitious shots of women around his hometown of Kyjoy in the Czech Republic, capturing thousands of pictures between the 1960s and 1985 and conducting himself in a way that would most probably arouse police suspicion today. Indeed, Miroslav Tichý was often arrested for photographing unconsenting women at the local pool. He suffered from dementia and was viewed as somewhat of an outsider though his reputation has been reassessed in recent years and his photographs are currently on show as part of the Moscow Photo Biennale at the Multimedia Art Museum until April 1.

Tichý's camera was cobbled together using found parts and everyday items such as tin cans, cardboard, bottle caps and rubber bands. For him, producing particularly bad quality images on a sub-standard camera was an art in itself; by his own description he was a master of terrible photography - the worst of the worst. Explaining his technique, he said, "First of all, you have to have a bad camera", and, "If you want to be famous, you must do something more badly than anybody in the entire world."



Miroslav Tichý with his camera, photo © Roman Buxbaum, 1987 


After shooting up to 90 pictures in a day, Tichý would return home and develop his film each evening, though he eventually destroyed many of his works. Tichý began as an artist who primarily painted and drew. However, when private property was nationalised during the communist regime, he was evicted from his studio and made homeless. He stopped drawing to focus only on photography. He remained fiercely independent for the rest of his life and lived very much as a recluse. Even when his work began to earn him recognition later in life he did not attend exhibitions honouring him.

“Tichý managed to give this banality a feeling of exceptionality and rarity," says Radek Horacek, director of the Brno House of Arts in the Czech Republic. “They are all very careful observations of women from Kyjov and of everyday trivial activities. Just part of a female body in his pictures can look very esoteric. There are so many magazines that offer much more nudity than Tichý 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." Miroslav Tichý – The Artist With The Bad Camera is at the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow until April 1.


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