Miroslav Tichý looks like a mountain goat. Scraggly white hair frames a scowl and his rotting jumper peels like skin from his body. Who would believe he is an award-winning photographer with a book for sale on Amazon.com?
From the 1960s to the mid-1980s, this recluse and political rebel from the Czech Republic worked his way to taking about 100 shots a day using cameras he made from scavenged bits and pieces, including cardboard, cotton reels, old spectacles, toothpaste and cigarette ash. Not surprisingly, these are artworks themselves, the kind of sculptures any mixed-media or assemblage artist would be proud to exhibit.
Like many male photographers, Tichý focuses on the female body. Technically, his images look like blown out and blurred experiments from the beginnings of photography. Artistically, they’re bikini-clad fantasies, an endless summer of cleavage and long legs.
Three things, however, prevent these pictures from being unadulterated voyeurism. First, the subjects’ carefree poses combine with the dust spots, scratches and creases on the prints themselves to evoke nostalgia. Second, Tichý’s trompe o’leil frames — designed mostly to mimic wood — resemble a child’s scribbles on cardboard. And third, he appears to have disdained his images, which he left out in the rain to age, used as drinks coasters or simply dropped on the floor.