This is What a 6.5 Million Dollar Photograph Looks Like

This is What a 6.5 Million Dollar Photograph Looks Like

A private collector in Las Vegas just bought Peter Lik's, "Phantom," today for an unprecedented $6.5 million making this sale the most expensive photograph in history. Peter didn't just call it a day with one sale, he also sold, "Illusion," for $2.4 million and, "Eternal Moods," for $1.1 million. That's just a cool $10 million dollar payday for LIK USA™. These sales from today now make Peter Lik hold four of the top 20 spots for most expensive photographs ever sold. He had already been listed previously with a $1 million sale for his image, "One."

The Southwestern region of the United States is Lik's all-time favorite places to shoot. Arizona's Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon carved out by natural flowing water over the course of millions of years. This subterranean caver is where Lik captured, "Phantom," a ghost-like figure depicted in the black and white photo above.

"Certain textures and contours found in nature lend themselves beautifully to black and white photography," said Lik.  "The intensity of contrasting light and dark spaces was surprising, but made for some of the most powerful images I've ever created."

The two works that sold today, "Phantom," and, "Eternal Moods," are black and white representations of Lik's iconic images "Ghost" and "Eternal Beauty," shown below. Lik is widely known and regarded for his artistic take on landscape photography and capturing the colors that Mother Nature provides. Rarely ever departing from his normal vibrant and colorful style, the black and white style are quite compelling and different from Lik.

Lik has been shooting landscapes in the most beautiful places on earth for 30 years. He's won awards and accolades cementing his stake as one of the world's most talented and dedicated artists'. Hailing from humble beginnings in his native Australia, this is quite a historic moment for Peter Lik. Fstoppers congratulates Peter Lik and can't wait to see what's coming next from him.

"Eternal Beauty" © Peter Lik

The purpose of all my photos is to capture the power of nature and convey it in a way that inspires someone to feel passionate and connected to the image.

-Peter Lik

"One" previously sold for a cool $1 million. © Peter Lik
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Connor Katz's picture

Wowza! Lik makes great images no doubt. But those prices are more a reflection on his marketing, branding, and salesmanship than the quality of the image itself. That dude has likely created the most profitable art business in history. Makes Kinkade look like a chump : ) People can hem and haw about being a sellout or whatever, that burden only seems to get placed mostly on artists for whatever reason. As a businessman this guy is a giant! Who knows what he actually pockets, but he's made a very comfortable living doing what he loves. Props to him for that!

Karaminder Ghuman's picture

Well said Connor. I agree that once you decide to buy something like this, you're buying into the man, the myth, the brand and have a helluva story to go along with it.

David Vaughn's picture

It's an exceptional image, but I always wonder if the art buyers actaully look at the image before purchasing. Or if they just look at the specs or whatever like "Wow, Peter Lik, and it's a limited ONE print run!? I must have this." ...I don't actually know how art buying works.

It just seems like there are so many great works in these portfolios that aren't really any more or less interesting than each other, so it's weird when one "only" sells for 1 million and another sells for 1 gajillion.

kandiklover's picture

Lot of high priced art buying works as a form of Money Laundering and Tax Evasion. A perfect method too, pretentious types make up pseudo-intellectual excuses for it to pretend to be "deep" and "cultured" so no one suspects a thing. Of course the clueless will see these arts and then start trying to imitate them en masse.

Though later articles cast doubt on the 6.5 mill thing ever actually happening.

Michael Kormos's picture

Gotta give it to the man. In landscape photography, where everyone is complaining about not being able to make a dime, this fella comes out of the outback firing on all cylinders and shows the industry what's really possible. Like Connor said, his work is exquisite. One really has to visit one of his galleries to appreciate the sheer resolution and clarity of his images, even standing mere inches from the print. His showroom salesmen are quick to point out no photoshop is involved, but HDR processing is evident in many of the images. Still, marketing and branding take the prize for success. Those focused on imitating his fame by asking what lens and ISO he uses will find themselves scratching their heads.

Doc Pixel's picture

"His showroom salesmen are quick to point out no photoshop is involved"

I know this is pedantic*, but... they're saying that PL's images didn't go through ANY software processing other than in-camera?... and that prints are made from in-camera processed JPG/TIF and/or sRGB/AdobeRGB files? Impressive if true.

* photoshopping = a universal verb to describe photo manipulation, correction and/or enhancement via any and all computer software after a picture is moved from a camera to a computer.

Michael Kormos's picture

Right, which I understand. From a marketing (and branding) standpoints, these policies strengthen the illusion of exclusivity. They also use coached words like "master photographer", stress the fact that he uses a film camera, and no retouching or photoshop is involved. What you're buying is a true work of art. Needless to say, I've heard rumors there are a handful of retouchers working full time at his Las Vegas facility, but what do I know? The salesmen at luxury car dealerships are no different, oftentimes having little to no clue as to what they're talking about :-)

Michael Kormos's picture

hint hint, the shadow (black) areas of the moon should've been the same color as the sky behind it. It's a dead giveaway. Besides, you'd never capture distant stars against the illuminated surface of the moon without digital trickery. No camera in the world can record that kind of dynamic range. Man, I'm good. I ought to have my own show!

Adam Metzger's picture

If the shot was done on film, I guess it could be the old "sandwich the moon in" trick. But I very much doubt that.

I don't think it matters whether Photoshop is involved or not in an image. Paintings, for example, have never been a 100% true representation of nature either. It's the end result that matters. If someone likes an image, they buy that image.

BUT: If Lik's staff really claim that there's no Photoshop involved, that's just bullshit.
Oh... wait... maybe they don't use Photoshop. Maybe they use CorelDraw, or Paintshop?

Millie Williams's picture

There is no way this is straight out of the camera! Especially a FILM camera! This whole thing is so absurd! In "Bella Luna", it is so damn obvious it's edited to the hilt! Unless of course he was on a starship.Hell, why not? That's more believable than he only shoots with film and no Photoshop is involved. Who are these people that are buying his photos and most of all his tall tale? Wow. Shame I have integrity.

Marco Fiorini's picture

This make me think about what there's inside the brain of an art buyers. I am really envy about their money and I wonder why someone have to spend all that money to buy a landscape shot, when they can save a ton and buy a better one on 500px. The man? The myth? They should call Lik King Mida.

Marco Fiorini's picture

Oh, sorry for my bad English and for the negative comment, but I really can't pull anything positive out of myself..

Nick Viton's picture

A fool and his money are soon parted

Paul Tucker's picture

Dear FStoppers... please create a marketing and salemanship course led by Peter Lik! :)

Pedro Oliveira's picture

Lik is the ultimate successful business-photographer. Many of us, including me, would love to be on his shoes. He knows how to shot and fine processing images, marketing things and had a the luck for be in the right moment and place.
But paying 6,5 million, that´s a bit surreal! I´d be really happy if someday one of mine would sell for 6,500 grand. :)

Deleted Account's picture

You will sell you images for more Pedro! Your work is freaking AMAZING!!

Gordon le Grand's picture

Who the f is Peter Lik? Over here we have Gursky and his prices are also out of this world. How do they come to such overpayment?

Anonymous's picture

It has nothing to do with the quality of the work, it is a business invesment. Most people who have 6.5M for a photo are not the people with the best taste of deepest insights into art. They have someone tell them what to invest in, usually a art dealer. Lik has become a commodity, because his photos are that expensive his work is now a collectable something something dark side... prices wil go up until they deflate?!? It's a game, they keep playing it, it happend to classic cars until they started making retro design cars.

Christian Berens's picture

He is definitely an amazing photographer! I remember watching his photography show on the travel channel! I thoroughly enjoyed it, then I went to Vegas and saw one of his galleries there, simply amazing!


is it even film?!?!?!

Dov Hechtman's picture

A good marketer and businessman has nothing to do with being a good artist. Sometimes you have a good combination of both sometimes you don't and sometimes you have 2 people who make up that equation. A good example of that last is the artist Olivia who did all the erotic art pinup painting in the 70's. Her husband was the marketing / business genius as I remember it.

Liks whole Master photography schtick goes right down to a framed copy of his certificate from the photography program he graduated from in australia to prove he's a master photographer. A bit egocentric and has a feeling of inadequacy as if his work isn't proof enough but that aside it an integral part of his marketing strategy and it seems to work.

Likt is the poster boy for why marketing and understanding business as well as understanding don't undersell or underprice your work are keystones that most photographers forget and sadly to many photography websites proselytize that photographers should forget about in regards to copyright and pricing.

As a note if anyones been to Likts galleries, I've been through the one in SoHo NYC and before you even get to the value of the photography itself you have to admire what the man is doing in his presentation of his image's.

Every print in the gallery is back mounted onto a lucite backing so you get that translucent reflective glowing color effect there are no photo paper prints anywhere. A majority of the prints are all giant sized that before you even get to is it a good image the materials of the print already are worth 100's if not thousands of dollars.
When I say giant sized I'm talking 5 and 9 foot sized prints and larger literally wall sized in that back mounted lucite process.

Jason Berge's picture

Peter is indeed a very successful business man. Does it even matter how the work is produced? I know someone who works for him (I have never met Peter) and he shoots everything from 6x17 film to medium format and 35mm digital. He doesn't care, whatever gets the job done. He has even apparently toyed with RED cameras, (Jim Janard is his neighbour). The point being, it is the image not the tools that people are buying into, yes the gallery staff have their spiel, but doesn't everyone.


Andy Hutchinson's picture

I've got nothing but respect for the guy - I certainly don't begrudge someone simply because they've become successful - isn't that what we're all aiming for? I had a look through his website and I was struck by how very marketable his images are. Many of his shots did seem a bit Photos 101 - 'thou shalt always have leading lines in the centre of the images preferably of a wharf' but many were terrific.

Looking through those photos it's easy to see why people buy them, many of those locations are actually very anonymous looking - lone palm trees on white sandy beaches etc. But most of them also have that ability to transport you to the location in question. I suspect it's this last part that's the key and I can understand why someone like a dentist would put this on his wall. Anyway - good luck to the dude - I'd be happy with 1/1000th of his $500m worldwide sales - lol :)

Ter Ess's picture

Lik may not use Photoshop, but my guess is that his camera like many others have all kinds of settings, such as vibrant, saturation, and super vivid to name a few. And how did Lik convert Phantom from color to B&W, magic? If you use Photoshop, why not just say so?

Mbutu Namubu's picture

A post about Peter Lik at the Ripoff Report:

Several years ago, I met an amateur photo guy at a friend's barbeque. He wanted to show me some of his prints after he found out my background in photography. One of his prints was a picture of Antelope Canyon that he took as a tourist or on a workshop or something (I can't remember). Anyhow, it didn't look that much different from Lik's 6.5 million dollar uber-photo.

Colin Dunn's picture

Peter Lik categorically does NOT use Photoshop!!! He has 3-4 graphic artists that process his pictures for him - so the statement is 100% correct. These are digitally painted/colour processed/digitally enhanced photographs. Don't get me wrong I love his work and I think he is a brilliant photographer, pioneer, marketer and business man and all credit to him for amazing work. You still have to take an amazing picture in order to achieve an outcome like he does.

And the smokey phantom look in the light beam - guess his assistant tossed a big handful of sand up into the beam and then dived for cover.

Lori Whalen's picture

Trust me I have been to his store in Oahu and he never claims no photoshopping there are several photos that are so ridiculous there is no way to put a sun and moon in without it. He has the best used car salesmen I have ever seen. He prints on beautiful paper and his frames are outrageous. He knows how to sell pure and simple. Trust me I have been to the places he has been he enhances his colors to the max and if he doesn't use photoshop he doesn't use a camera. And really why would it matter. The end result is pretty impressive.

James Rosales's picture

There has to be some kind of post production/ processing situation going on. There is now way you can get those images with only a camera. Not even his $30K dollar cameras can set the sun at a perfect angle, giving him a perfect lighting scenario. I truly find that really hard to believe Lik does not use Photoshop techniques. I been shooting for a long time, landscapes, architectural and I find myself using a little post processing every once in a while. I do try my best to let the camera and natural light do its work, but I'll be a liar if I told you I don't use Photoshop.

duo maria's picture

Oh my god I feel I might throw up . I think all photographers feel little envy . But wonder what the likes of "master photographers" feel like a Bresson if he was around or , a Steve mccurry . For me I don't see a difference from multitudes of 500pixs photos . Hell I feel any Robert Clark photo should deserve more attention than Liks photos . The guy sold himself well . got the connections and did it . Not very different than what the man that discovered Vivian Mair did . He was selling an original copy what ever that means signed by him for 5k each . I think that many will go out and buy cameras try to imitate this for the money , and other already photographers sitting 8 hours at a wedding , making ends meat are sitting in a hot bath with a razor in their hands...

Michael Osei's picture

Is there any word on the size of print or number of pieces in the edition? Did not find anything online.

I'm finding reasonable doubt on authenticity of the internets: a) The word was spread by himself, b) he never got close to that price before c) Usually stuff like that gets sold in auctions. Even Gursky is only asking for 400k if you buy direct.

Anonymous's picture

6.5M might come with all rights?

Kurt Copeland's picture

Hence the adage "charge what the market will bear." Bravo, Peter Lik!

Anonymous's picture

If you take out the 'million" people would still believe the headline.

Alex Dean's picture

Looks like an X-ray of an action man toy stuck up someones arse.

Could be just me though. Still well done $6.5Mill.

Martin Leblanc's picture

Why is it that P.T.Barnum suddenly surfaced in my mind while reading that article?
According to that article: it isn't even true, that Mr. Lik would be close to a scam artist.