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Miroslav Tich?


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Miroslav Tichý

2 Jan 2022 7:58AM   Views : 445 Unique : 230

In England and Wales, we have a law that forbids ‘upskirting’ – surreptitious photography of any person (the law is not confined to women) with the intention of viewing their genitals or buttocks, with or without underwear ‘where the purpose of the behaviour is to obtain sexual gratification, or to cause humiliation, distress or alarm.’

If illegal acts can said to have patron saints (maybe patron sinners?) Miroslav Tichý was undoubtedly the man to front the Voyeur Rights Front. He had trained as an artist in Prague, and was, the sources say, considered to be a dissident in the Communist era. He died in 2011, and spent most of his life in his hometown, a constant source of low-level annoyance and police activity. Even without a specific law to prevent his snapshotting of scantily-clad women at the local swimming pool, he was recognised as a sex pest.

Of his technical methods, Tichý 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." With badly-made cardboard cameras (how do they work at all, I wonder?) he certainly got close.

On a positive note – may I be forgiven for it – his work is a monument to all those moments when men are taken aback by the beauty of a passing woman showing, perhaps, a little more of her body than she anticipated: those moments when Mrs D turns to me and tells me she knows what I’m looking at.

And it is sometimes debateable territory, though no man should ever assume that exposure is intentional. But I have a memory of auditing one day in an office of a dozen people or more, and a young female accountant in a low-cut, loose-knit top and no bra leaning closer than felt comfortable to me. I developed a sudden interest in the column of figures on the other side of the desk… And, frankly, I felt exploited.

There was a fashion, 40 years ago, for glamour models to shoot ‘flashing’ images in public places, and at least one top-shelf magazine ran a regular column of such shots. The style lives on – a model I worked with last year told me she’d been approached by a website specialising in the style. She didn’t accept a booking.

But there’s a big difference between stealing beauty, and beauty willingly offered, and for most people, the latter is better in every single way. To quote Hannah Gadsby, from her ‘Arts Clown’ radio series, ‘consent is so hot!’ (She was talking about Edouard Manet’s 1856 painting, Olympia. Well worth listening to.)

So there we are: skirting – if you’ll pardon the word – the edge of good taste, and the law. This seems to me to pose more than a few questions for those of us who seek female beauty to photograph, and men walking down the street. And it leaves only one question still to be asked:

Why is there not a parallel law in Scotland?

I honestly don’t know whether it’s because it’s not a problem, because it can be dealt with adequately by other legal means, or to protect the national heritage of jokes about the kilt.


dudler Plus
19 1.9k 1948 England
2 Jan 2022 8:05AM
Why no illustrations?

You can find some of Tichý's work on the web, including at gallery websites: he's achieved some sort of posthumous fame, or maybe notoriety. So there would be copyright issues: and equally importantly, I would feel unhappy pushing the images at you.

After David (Imageryonly) found a link to a film about Chris Joyce, my subject yesterday, I spent the next half-hour watching, rapt, and finished viewing it wishing that I'd had the chance to meet Joyce. He was a warm, thoughtful man, who produced wonderful pictures. An altogether admirable man, I think. I'm not sure the same could be said of Tichý...

Apologies to all Scots for the final paragraph. I am entirely confident that you take intrusive male (and female) gazing and photographing entirely seriously.
af1 Plus
9 1 United Kingdom
2 Jan 2022 9:13AM
Great article John, l remember the 'Mini skirt era' where lots of women at the time who should not have bothered because of their obesity 'squeezing' into oversize belts at the time and flashing oblivious to what they were showing ! travelling on a double decker at the time l remember this oversize lady attempting to go up the stairs in high heels and the skirt ending up round her waist as the bus was moving ! Hilarious...remember the 'song dedicated to fashion'. SmileSmile Have a good day ..Alan
kaybee 18 8.3k 27 Scotland
2 Jan 2022 9:13AM
It is quite something that he managed to get anything out of those cameras - they certainly don't look like they have been loved and cared for.
Some of his images hark back to the early days of photography and are probably helped by the state of the cameras as much as the processing.

In Scotland I think the offence of 'upskirting' (which seems to be a different "style" of photography from Tichy's) would be dealt with by a charge of Breach Of The Peace ........ or a punch in the mouth. The wording of the English offence sounds like it could be a hard one to prove.
dudler Plus
19 1.9k 1948 England
2 Jan 2022 10:22AM
Thanks, both.

On the one hand, I maintain that everyone has the right to dress as they wish, and to be appreciated for it (with the one exception of the man who used to swim in the same public baths as I did, and who wore something that was a cross between thong and codpiece, and which waved backwards and forwards as he swam).

But I believe very strongly that it is a basic human right to be free of unwanted attention, and that includes photographic attention. I wonder if the English law is a misguided and patronising sop to those who asserted their rights? And there's also a freedom from fashion dictators...
AltImages 2 2
2 Jan 2022 1:06PM
I remember seeing an article about Tichý’s cameras a couple of years ago. Talk about photography on a shoestring, his was photography WITH a shoestring, cardboard tubes, tin cans, and cotton bobbins! Check out two pics of his camera. You'll not have seen anything like it before. It looks like it's been in a fire!:

I believe that his were all pinhole cameras and having seen some of his photos and they way they've been printed, again in a kind of derelict way, they definitely have an art look that to me has a kind of eccentric poor Eastern Bloc Andy Worhol feel, of often posed images, rather than pervy snaps. Certainly Christie's auction house consider him to be a collectable artist and he did hold a one man show in the New York International Centre of Photography, which is more than we'll ever do!×tamp=1456229722
AltImages 2 2
2 Jan 2022 1:17PM
dudler Plus
19 1.9k 1948 England
2 Jan 2022 5:53PM
He did say 'First of all, you have to have a bad camera.'

And... A lot of the images seem unposed, and I would not have shot them. Maybe this brings up the question of whether artistic intent, or even great artistry, ever balances the scales against one's failings as a human being. Going back to Hannah Gadsby, she raises questions about Picasso's attitude to women - calling a very young model a muse does not, I think, excuse abusive behaviour.
[From Wikipedia, on Picasso: In her memoir, Picasso, My Grandfather, Marina Picasso writes of his treatment of women, "He submitted them to his animal sexuality, tamed them, bewitched them, ingested them, and crushed them onto his canvas. After he had spent many nights extracting their essence, once they were bled dry, he would dispose of them." That seems to speak strongly of a misogynistic attitude.]
AltImages 2 2
3 Jan 2022 3:16AM
I agree with all that you've written above, John. Obviously everything must be done in a very open and consensual way in this day and age, even if people could get away with certain things in the past that are no longer acceptable. However, I do I have a problem with people who try to become famous primarily via notoriety, even if that publicity is what drives their money train. Picasso's and Damien Hirst's early art was superb, but didn't really get them noticed. Similarly Bob Carlos Clarke had the misguided idea that great artists should die young and tragically and that was presumably why he jumped under a train. But where it starts to get awkward for me, from an art and photography perspective, is that much of the current cancel culture and online social media censorship is based on the agenda of a few right-wing American Christian money men who have the power to mould public opinion, rather than it being something that evolves naturally and organically via public will. That said, the primary function of the world's population is to enrich these these masters, who pull the strings of our politicians to enact favourable tax and other legislation. So at the end of the day we need to toe the line.
dudler Plus
19 1.9k 1948 England
3 Jan 2022 8:35AM
David, there's a lot in there!

I have a lot of problems with the 'moral majority' and many American evangelicals - my own position is extreme liberal Anglican, and I would tend to side with sex-positive liberationists of all sexes. There are some peculiar inversions involved in cancel culture, and the biggest snowflake of all is Trump.

There are big questions around consent when people are in very different positions, economically or socially. We really should have the discussion over a pint in the summer - I'd enjoy that. And there is just so much to understand...
3 Jan 2022 8:38AM
AltImages 2 2
3 Jan 2022 10:54AM


Thanks for posting the link John. It made an interesting read. I own the book the excerpt was from, though haven't read it for many years. Paul.
dudler Plus
19 1.9k 1948 England
3 Jan 2022 11:19AM
That’s a great link, Tim.

And definitely a subject for another blog. I’ve written about Carlos Clarke before, but the conflicts and integrity issues merit examination.

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