How much would you pay for a photograph?
From my own experience, it’s not very much. With places like Ikea pushing large canvas prints at prices lower than it would cost me to print my own shots to canvas people just don’t seem to want to spend money on original prints very often when they can get this mass produced stuff for a fraction of the price.
I was recently asked for a canvas print and I quoted £90 for the print. The person enquiring about the print immediately retorted with a comment about being able to get a same size canvas in the shops for £14.99. I had to try and explain to her that she was getting a one off print of something she could not get anywhere else and even with the cheapest supplier it would cost me more than that just to get the canvas made. Needless to say, no sale.
So, with that in mind, how do you get to the point where you can sell this for $4.3 million?
I’m not knocking the image at all; each to their own but how under any circumstances is this worth that much money to anyone? In my eyes, it’s compositionally pretty poor, the subject matter is exceedingly dull, which is ok but the resulting image is also very dull. The colour is flat and to top it all, it’s even a very digitally enhanced image. I mean seriously, if I’d taken this I’d have deleted it and moved on, so how is an image like this even saleable?
My own best effort this year I reckon is this shot of Newhaven Harbour in Edinburgh taken in late August this year. This image was a culmination of dozens of visits to the location to test out different angles and techniques, different conditions and different compositions until one night, the light and conditions were perfect and the shot just came together perfectly. A lot of work went into getting this image but I couldn’t command $4.3 million for this. I just cannot see where a lot of work might have gone into the $4.3 million image?
I’ve used stacks of filters to get my image, experimented with different long exposures and 10 stop filters, dodged the incoming tide and tried to post process just enough to get the detail out of the image. The $4.3 million image was taken and dog walkers etc cloned out, but it still looks just like a compact camera snapshot. Where’s the technique and above all, where’s the art in this?
I spent some time at an art fair last year, which was 99% paintings and the price tags surprised me no end, small and by that I mean around 6×4″ originals going for around £1000 and in other cases about £100. The difference here though is that you can see where the work has gone, you can see an effort by the artist and these guys are simply not under valuing their work. It could be argued that the same is true of the $4.3 million shot, but can it really be worth that amount of money?
In short, I suppose everything is only worth what somebody will pay for it, in this case, $4.3 million for a dreary pic of the Rhine and less than £14.99 for mine. I know the photographer has had a long and high profile career but strip everything away and this is a dreary flat image and the price tag of $4.3 million is little more than an expensive piss take because the photographer has taken his career to a point where he can.
Let’s face it; we’d all do the same, wouldn’t we?