The Primitive Cameras of Czechoslovakia’s Unkempt Peeping Photographer

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Tichy's home made camera
Image: Miroslav Tichý via Foundation Tichý Oceán
One of Miroslav Tichý’s homemade cameras

Constructed out of cardboard, tape and Plexiglas, this camera may look like something a child might make for fun. And if someone was spotted out and about trying to take photographs with it, whomever was behind the lens could well be dismissed as somewhat delusional. However, the shaggy-haired, bearded man dressed in clothes that looked as rough and ready as the cameras he wielded actually knew exactly what he was doing.

Long lens camera
Image: Miroslav Tichý via Foundation Tichý Oceán
Tichý holding one of his cameras

Miroslav Tichý, who died in 2011 at the age of 84, had his own particular philosophy when it came to artistic photography. According to Tichý’s friend, biographer and neighbor Roman Buxbaum, Tichý said, “First of all, you have to have a bad camera! If you want to be famous, you have to do something so badly that no one else in the world does it as badly!”

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Woman in painted frame
Image: Miroslav Tichý via Foundation Tichý Oceán
Photograph of a woman in one of Tichý’s painted frames

While Tichý’s cameras certainly weren’t state of the art, they did work. Tichý made them himself using scraps of materials such as paper tubes, drainpipes, asphalt, elastic, and empty thread spools. The spools and elastic were used to create the rewind mechanism, which was connected to the shutter.

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