I Need a Longer Lens

June 3, 2008

Still Life with Holga

Crashing a pro photographers’ conference, looking at cameras and lenses costing more than an acre of land in some places, was a little like being in the locker room in middle school.

It didn’t help that I was carting around a Holga, a plastic toy that shoots on 120mm film. Its focus dial offers: head, person, people, and mountain range. Its case occasionally keeps out the light, and the people who develop your film usually apologize until you mention, to their relief, a Holga was involved.

Grotty Holga Slides

All the gear lust & envy brought to mind a few artists working with meager means. I have in mind not Bolexes and Holgas so much as the PXL-2000. This plastic video camera, with an ethereal black and white image taped to cassette, came from Fischer-Price. Grown up not at all, it now has it s own film festival, of all things.

And the whole of the work from the PXL hardly compares with the work, almost undiscovered, of the Czech photographer Miroslav Tichy. Working in virtual isolation, he returned to his hometown in Moravia after studying art in Prague. He made his own cameras, crafting long lenses out of pipes, tape, and handmade lenses. The photos– almost always of women, spied from afar– have a glowing, hazy texture, being born with the patina that takes most photos years to acquire. His approach would take most pros years to learn, as they unlearn all the artistic traps of expensive gear.

MT Inv. no.: 1-30

Miroslav Tichý, MT Inv. no.: 1-30, © Foundation Tichý oceán

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