What makes photographs valuable? Who decides what is worth $6.5 million? My father would say “Son, it is the law of supply and demand.”
So I am skimming the news yesterday and I run into this story about photographer Peter Lik and I'm absolutely flabbergasted to read that one of his photographs just sold for $6.5 million. After picking up my jaw from the floor, I looked at the photo and said “Meh, I have better photos than that!” And I've been to Antelope Canyon and I think I have some photos that would match or exceed this one (but again, you know i'm modest right? HA).
Which is what I'm sure most of us would say because we think our photography is awesome, well, I do anyway haha.
But in reality, even tho it bugs the heck out of me that Mr. Lik has sold over $400million of his photos, and I say to myself “why not me?” I end up somewhat admiring him for his ability to make it happen. Now I also realize that there are plenty of people who don't think his work is worth it. Just reading some of the comments says that's true (of course, everyone bitches about everything now on social media so who knows what the real sentiment is out there).
But in business terms, if he's indeed sold that value of photos, he must be pretty dang smart to work the system and to convince people that his art has great value (even if the secondary market doesn't value his art that highly). So is he brilliant or a scam artist?
By the way, I don't think I'd ever heard of him before I saw this article.
Ok, so here's the photo:
Worth $6.5million? What do you think?
So here's the story I was reading:
Why the New York Times took Australian millionaire photographer Peter Lik to task
Peter Lik is in awe of himself. When he describes his career as a fine art photographer, he speaks with the satisfaction of a guy who has performed miracles, at the pace of a bystander who has just caught a glimpse of Superman.
The words tumble forth in self-exalting, run-on sentences, most of them laced with profanity, all of them in his sunny, chummy Australian accent.
“I'm the world's most famous photographer, most sought-after photographer, most awarded photographer,” he said one recent afternoon, sipping a can of Red Bull in a conference room at Peter Lik USA, a 100,000-square-foot headquarters in Las Vegas devoted solely to the production and sale of Peter Lik photography.
“So I said” – and what Lik said next is an unprintable version of “the heck with it,” and then – “I want to make something special, special, special, special.”
That something special was a photograph called Phantom, an image of an eerily human-shaped swirl of dust in Antelope Canyon in Arizona. In December, his company announced in a news release that an anonymous collector had spent $US6.5 million ($8.4 million) for Phantom. That crushed the previous record, held by Andreas Gursky, whose Rhein II fetched $US4.3 million at an auction in 2011, and Cindy Sherman, whose Untitled #96 brought $US3.9 million at another auction the same year.
But Gursky and Sherman are titans, with solo shows in pre-eminent museums.
Who is Peter Lik?
It irks him a little that you have to ask. Because by one measure – money – Lik may well be the most successful fine-art photographer who ever lived. He has sold $US440 million worth of prints, according to his chief financial officer, in 15 galleries in the United States that he owns and that sell his work. The images are mostly panoramic shots of trees, sky, lakes, deserts and blue water in supersaturated colours. Generally speaking, his buyers are not people who acquire the art of Andreas Gursky and Cindy Sherman.
Which is just one reason Lik considers himself an artist working outside a system established by elitist tastemakers. And while he says he doesn't mind being snubbed by the establishment, part of him is bothered that his renown has lagged woefully behind his level of financial success.
So six months ago, he had an idea. Nearly every Peter Lik photograph is printed in a “limited edition” of 995; the first print sells at about $US4000, with the price rising as the edition sells out. With his eye fixed on a record-setting sale, he printed a single copy of Phantom.
|Note: it is our policy to give credit as well as deserved traffic to our news sources – so we don't repost the entire article – sorry, I know you want the juicy bits, but I feel it is only fair that their site get the traffic and besides, you just might make a new friend and find an advertiser that has something you've never seen before|
(cover photo credit: snap from source in post)