Art or not?
Take a moment if you will to look over this article about the $6.5-million record setting sale of an image from Antelope Canyon in Northern Arizona. I’m thrilled about the good fortune of Peter Lik (the photographer), but a little less so about the commentary and conclusions of Jonathan Jones in his article.
The author seems to have a burning desire to bash photography as “not being art.” Really? He is certainly entitled to his opinion and to share it in the forum provided to him by The Guardian. I don’t have an issue with that at all. My issue is that he tossed out as many hackneyed (to recycle his own word) expressions as possible in an attempt to slur not only the photographer, but also photography in general as art. He goes so far as to call the image tasteless. Again…..really?
All the while, Jones fails to understand a few of the real implications of this sale.
First of all, the sale price that Peter Lik was able to get for his image should be highly encouraging to all photographers. We all tend to work very hard for our income and it is a good thing that at least one buyer out there is obviously very moved by something newer than the classic Ansel Adams masterpieces. The takeaway for photographers should be that there are better opportunities than ever our there to market your work.
Jones is correct in his article that one can Google Antelope Canyon and find thousands of images similar to Peter Lik’s image that posted this record-setting sale. In fact, I have shot dozens of my own while in that same canyon. Although I might be biased, I think that several of mine are perhaps even better than the Peter Lik image. That said, he did a nice job on the shot.
So what makes Peter Lik’s “Phantom” image worth $6.5-million and my versions of that same canyon worth so much less? In short, Peter was there and I wasn’t. Not in the canyon of course (we were both there at different times), but at the sale. I’ve long maintained that the key to selling an image is to be able to put yourself and your work in front of a client when that client is looking. It’s harder than you might think and I respect Lik for getting it done. My images from Antelope Canyon are happily resting in my photo archives and on the website, while Peter’s ended up being in front of the right person when that person was looking to buy.
That timing, coupled with a nice image, equals a sale. In this case, a very, very big one. Kudos to you Mr. Lik!
So while Jones is promoting his opinion that photography is not art and never will be art, I strenuously disagree. To me, art is in the eye of the beholder. In this case, the beholder was impressed enough to spend millions on the image. I’m thrilled for Mr. Lik and his family. I wonder how much Jones has spent in the last few years on what he does consider to be art?
At the end of the day, one can refer to my photography as art, not art or an egg salad sandwich. If you are a buyer are are interested in spending millions for it…let’s talk.
What do you think?