Velvet Revolution

I came across Tichy’s work in a book I found in a store on Bond St. in NYC, two three years ago. At first I didn’t know what I was looking at. I didn’t know I was looking at photos that had been thrown on the floor and walked on by their taker and scratched and gnawed and peed on by the taker’s cat. Jeez, they looked abandoned found filed away discovered torn washed up rejected dismissed folded and cornered liked they were used to level the leg of a wobbly table. I didn’t have time to read the introduction and didn’t see the portrait of the author of these “terrible” photographs. I bought the book and put it in a bag with other photo books I bought that day. Books by Ed Templeton Terry Richardson Dash Snow Peter Sutherland Ryan McGinley Roe Ethridge. I figured I’d get around to looking more in a month and had the bag of books sent upstate to my library in Neon New York. Twelve months later I finally opened the bag and “discovered” Tichy. I had a revelation baby. I thought a young guy had taken old photos. I should have answered my own question…DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE? The answer was and always will be, no.

The book is in my lap and I’m comfortable in my chair. I have some time and I can start at the beginning. Everything is right when everything is wrong. This guy is a professional amateur. He’s ninety in body and nine in the head. The guy never grew up. He’s almost grown. He reminds me of Bo Diddly. He reminds me of Soupy Sales. He reminds me of Swanson Dinners and bird’s eye views. I remember my mother demonstrating food products at the Stop and Shop and think about Tichy watching her as she slathers a layer of miracle whip on a slice of wonder bread. I can’t see it clearly but I think about David Hemmings in the movie Blow Up when he’s straddling Vanessa Redgrave fucking her with his camera. The Japanese guys who take pictures in the park of couples having sex. Carlo Molino’s polaroids. Snapshots that I found of German nudists from the thirties in big black albums. Almost any snapshot really… especially ones from Brownie cameras… the ones my sister took of fellow girl scouts camping and staying in tents and sleeping in white underwear and taking showers under rain barrels and singing and hugging around campfires. Sigmar Polke’s photo essay of himself with a girlfriend spending a weekend in a tub in Paris. Casual, passed around, 3x5’s for the wallet, dime-store frames. Beloc’s Storyville. Ruff’s cyberporn. Hans-Peter Feldman’s collection of women’s knees. My own description of the 8-track photograph I wrote about in 1977.

1. Original copy.
2. The re-photographed copy.
3. The angled copy.
4. The cropped copy.
5. The focused copy.
6. The out-of-focused copy.
7. The black-and-white copy.
8. The color copy.

I’m thinking of when you get back your vacation shots and the ones that are over-exposed and bleached out and hard to make-out and maybe just your friends tongue is in the frame… and others that are blurred and streaked and you say, oh, these are no good, they look like they’re suffering from the jitters and withdrawal… Christ they look like I was drunk when I took them. Throw them in the bottom of the wastebasket. That’s where they end up. I’m lucky if one out of ten “turn out”. I guess at this point I’ll say for Tichy it’s the opposite. He’ll say nine out of ten I’ll keep. And that tenth one is probably completely black blank and dead.

No problem. Double-exposed? To much sulfur? Not enough time in the fixative? Expiration on the film run out? Can’t figure out depth of field? Have no idea what ASA is? They don’t sell Tungsten anymore? The only thing holding your camera together is gravity and duct-tape? Getting hauled off to jail for not taking a bath and stinking up the YMCA? Liking and making figurative art? Like I said, no problem.

Shutterbug clubs. You get together with fellow camera buffs, enthusiasts, and chip in for a model and spend a day on a beach out near Coney Island and snap away at an alluring half naked girl posing in positions usually associated with the twelve months of the year. Maybe that’s a club Tichy could have been a part of, a member, because he sure didn’t look like he belonged to the Knight’s of Columbus. Wino chic. Desolation row. I half expect his sweater to be part of an exhibit… right along side images of Rat Fink. Description of the sweater: A thing of beauty, a place to hide in and carry on protecting himself from “red” squares and advancing armies that underestimate the ten below, the ice and the freeze of a Russian nite in winter.

By the way… that sweater Tichy wears? Looks like David Cronenberg made it.

What I like about Tichy is that everything is considered. He’s not naïve. He doesn’t make folkart and you can’t describe his work as “outsider” art. He doesn’t hide anything. Show’s you exactly what he’s looking at and presents it like a love letter. He knows that his photos aren’t plugged in. There’s no cable or satellite hooked up to his camera. It’s like his apparatus has rabbit ears and it’s fully functionable with just three channels. Yea, it’s hard to get a clear picture but with a little tin foil around the end of the “ears” you can just about make out Elke Summers Kim Novak Edie Adams and Queen Jane. I would bet if Tichy had stationary, the graphic for ABC television would be its logo.

Tichy doesn’t like clean clear Revlon like images. His images are stained, the “delic” is funked… there’s no make-up air-brush clearasil no one’s murmuring off to the side “cut”… there’s no overdub brilliant idea re-write velvet crush teased hair. The musician Moondog comes to mind. The Fugs and Captain Beefheart and Lord Buckley. I think I saw Tichy in Saugerties this weekend. Yardsale. I heard he summers in Preston Hollow west of the Hudson on the way out of Oak Hill just north of Tannersville…(anyone thinking RipVanWinkle?). He sells brick’a brack twice a month out of a van which he parks on Sunday’s in the hill town of Bern-Knox just outside of Thatcher Park. He has a complete HO train set which has never been photographed. He collects books on Arshile Gorky and when he can find them buys reproductions of John Graham’s figure studies. Right now he’s obsessed with images of Candy Barr. He likes inside information. If you don’t know it… Candy Barr was second banana to Betty Page. She starred in the backyard porn flic Smart Alec when she was fifteen. The only surviving prints of the film look like early kinescopes… like someone deliberately put dirt and hair on the negative. The film jumps and flickers. There’s no sound. Later Warhol would cop a similar look and feel. After Smart Alec, Candy became the girlfriend of Jack Ruby, the guy who shot Oswald, Oswald the guy who shot Kennedy. It’s funny the connections people make. Turns out the Zappruder film Of Kennedy getting assassinated is Tichy’s favorite film. No mystery there. It’s home-made, unavailable, and was broken down into stills for Life Magazine.

Sometimes Tichy’s photographs remind me of candles and shadows and silhouettes, ghost stories, keyholes, Jim Morrison lyrics, white bicycles, the short story by John Cheever entitled The Swimmer, (the bathing suits). His cameras… they don’t really work do they? He makes them himself? If you were a prisoner jailed on Alcatraz and you were planning to escape and part of the plan was leaving behind what looked to be a camera on your bed… to fool the guard… well… Tichy would be the perfect cellmate. His cameras are nuts! Cardboard and nuts and scotchtape. Another collage. That’s the thing about his work… it’s simple, there’s no technique or craft no invested effort or labor no school or diploma. You can see yourself doing it. Especially the way he enhances and adds on in pen and pencil, sometimes outlining the shapes and features of the figure in his photographs. A simple black dot in the middle of an unblinking eye. It’s enough and anybody could of done it. Araki with his ink. Arnulf Rainer with his washes and drips. The best art for me is when I see something and say to myself, yea, I could spend an afternoon doing that. For me, the afternoon is in Tichy’s work…