Miroslav Tichy

Kunsthaus Zurich

“Photography is an immediate reaction, drawing is a meditation.” Thus the oft-quoted words of Henri Cartier-Bresson, emblazoned on a wall at the Kunsthaus Zürich to open an exhibition on Cartier-Bresson and Alberto Giacometti that, as it happened, was running concurrently with this first retrospective of much-lesser-known photographer Miroslav Tichý. By the Frenchman’s definition, Tichý’s work is closer to drawing, but this merely underlines the famous aphorism’s limitations.

Textbooks on photographic history invariably narrate the triumph of “straight” photography over late-nineteenth-century pictorialism, whose techniques of shading and blurring are usually said to ape the appearance of painting (this despite the fact that most painting of the period strove for clarity and precision). Tichý, practically reinventing photography from scratch, reconstitutes pictorialism along with it, and

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