Peter Lik must be one very happy camper. Earlier we broke the news of the sale of the “Phantom”, a black and white image of Arizona’s Antelope Canyon, sold for a record breaking $6.5m, making it the most expensive photograph ever sold. A massive internal discussion amongst Fstoppers writers took place shortly thereafter, arguing whether any photograph was actually worth that much money.
Peter Lik is undoubtedly talented, and driven to create compelling visual images and interesting and unique prints, and goes to incredible lengths to get the shots he does. I randomly wandered into one of his show rooms some years back and – while what he produces is not “my thing”, I definitely get why people go for it.
But is any photograph worth that much money? I have no idea what it feels like to make $10m in a weekend but I’d love to speak to Peter and find out what he thinks because these amounts are unprecedented. There is obviously a fair amount of jubilation over at LIK USA as this is the banner that greets you when you visit Peter's site today:
What Is Any Photograph Actually Worth?
Without denigrating the work of any photographer, which is certainly not the aim here, it inevitably makes me wonder “just how much is any photograph actually worth?”
For those who may not be familiar, you might like to check out this list that Gizmodo put together last year of the 10 most expensive photographs ever sold. Many frequently feel incredulous when looking at what Gursky’s photographs sell for, but I’ve never seen one in person. Our own Mike Kelley (no stranger to finding himself at the epicenter of a significant demand for his own fine art work) has said on the Gursky work, “it's about so much more than what the photo itself just "looks" like”.
This is absolutely the crux of the question about the value of our photography, surely.
If I consider something art, and you or the next person doesn’t, who is to say I am wrong? If I am willing to pay $1million for a photograph that you wouldn’t pay a penny for, then the value for that piece of work is now at $1million.
We end up fundamentally asking, “what is it that determines the value of our work?”. This will actually be the topic of an upcoming article form our very own Chris Knight, who will be going into more detail on what is art, and what is it worth, so I won't get too deep into that here, but wouldn't it fascinating to try and conduct a scientific experiment of sorts to attempt to bring some insight into the truest value of what we shoot?
How Can We Establish Our True Photographic Worth?
We at Fstoppers always want to try to dig a little deeper and within both the photographic community and the wider artistic and creative communities at large, so I’ve decided to conduct a small social experiment with the help of fellow writer and travel photographer extraordinaire, Michael Bonocore with the aim of answering this intriguing question.
Michael has very kindly donated a piece of one of his latest fine art works to see if we can establish a tangible value to what some may consider to be a work of art.
You may view the work and what he is offering here:
Let’s put this to the test. Can we break Lik’s record? Unlikely. Can we establish the true market value for his photograph? Absolutely. Will some of us call it art while others call it complete garbage? Almost certainly. But I'm positive that's the same exact discussion going on with work that sells for millions of dollars.
Feel free to bid on Michael’s one of a kind piece of otherworldly tranquility and let’s see where things go – and please be assured that, in keeping with the holiday spirit and in an effort to maintain a semblance of journalistic integrity, any and all profits from the sale will absolutely go to a charity of Michael’s choosing.