Saturday, 17 August 2013

How not to spend an extra £2,699,970 on a photograph?

Guardian newspaper caption from their article of 11/11/2011:
Andreas Gursky's Rhine II has set a record for the most expensive 
photograph ever sold.  Photograph: Andreas Gursky/Christie's

£2,700,000 is a pile of cash.  Translate it into the US$ equivalent and it's a mind boggling $4.3 million.
Quite a lot to spend on a photo - even a photo as big as Andreas Gursky's Rhein II.  But it sold for that in 2011.  At 140 inches x 80 inches, printed on acrylic glass, it works out at £241 per square inch.

There was lots of press comment at the time (here is the Guardian's piece:, some favourable, some less so.  Gursky is reported as envisaging the picture as a bleak reflection on modern existence - but achieves it by removing / photoshopping from the picture any element of that existence.  He is widely regarded as one of the premier art photographers, renowned for large canvases, often with incredible fine detail - but in this case turned that practice on its head, reducing picture elements to a minimum.

Many people have commented on the picture, with a particularly thoughtful, photographer's eye piece from Josh Dunlop at Expert Photography:

Ripples, Thames Estuary, © Sonning Creatives
So why am I talking about this nearly 2 yrs after the sale?  Well its a recent find for me, and it is a find at a time when I am thinking about how to value and promote my own photographs.  I've recently been privileged to sell a small number of prints of my minimalist seascape: Ripples, Thames Estuary - taken in a location almost as unprepossessing as Gursky's Rhein II.  

In my case, the effect was predominantly created by the camera technique, with just some tweaking of contrast and vibrancy in post processing.   Whereas Gursky wanted to strip back to reflect what he sees as a harsh reality, my own hope was to find the hidden beauty in a commonplace scene.  I'd love to hear whether you think I succeeded.

And then we come to value:  just how does one value one's own work?  I've sold A3 prints of this picture at around £30 - and was flattered that someone wanted to display my work.  While any aspiring artist dreams of a big sale, even the most megalomaniac won't dream of reaching Gursky's heights.  But do we as artists short change ourselves?  And how do we know?

In the meantime, if you would like to avoid spending an extra £2,699,970 on a photograph to grace your - or a loved one's - wall pop over to my Etsy site where you can buy Ripples, Thames Estuary at 19x13 inches for £30 - less than 12.5 pence per square inch!  Surely a bargain?

Visit my Etsy page for this image here: