Ever wondered just how much your best photograph could be worth if it was put up for auction?
Here are the photos that have won the five highest bids when put on the block.
Of course, we’re not saying that one of your photographs could be worth this much… but then again, who knows?
1. Andreas Gursky’s “99 Cent II Diptych”
Photo Courtesy Sotheby’s
The first photograph to sell for more than $3 million, Andreas Gurky’s 99 cent II, Diptych reached $3,340,456 at a Sotheby’s auction in London, February 2007. This was the third time the photograph had sold for more than $2 million. Another print of the same image was sold for $2.25 million in May, 2006, and yet another print had reached $2.48 million just six months later.
Interestingly, the record-breaking photograph was sold not at a photography auction, but at a sale of contemporary art. That might suggest that how an artwork is sold plays an important role in defining how much it can sell for.
2. Edward Steichen’s “The Pond-Moonlight”
Courtesy of Sotheby’s
Just missing the $3 million mark, and for a while the world’s highest-selling photograph, Edward Steichen’s “The Pond – Moonlight” was sold for $2,928,000 at Sotheby’s in New York in February, 2006.
The picture shows moonlight between trees and reflecting on a pond, and appears to be in color. However, color photography did not begin until 1907, three years after the photograph was taken.
Steichen used layers of light-sensitive gum to create an impression of color. Only three prints exist, with the other two in museum collections.
One way to create an expensive photo then could be to use a unique process, keep it rare… and wait a hundred years.
3. Richard Prince’s “Anonymous (Cowboy)”
Courtesy of Christie’s
Richard Prince’s photograph of a cowboy was perhaps an odd choice as the first photograph to reach a million dollars at auction. It sold for $1,248,000 at Christie’s in New York in November 2005.
The photograph, which was taken in 1989, wasn’t original but a shot of part of a Marlboro ad. Prince had started shooting images of magazine ads while collating press clips for Time Life in the 1970s.
The only other image, other than the proof in the possession of the artist, is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Subject matter and rarity count it seems.
4. Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey’s “Athènes, T[emple] de J[upiter] olympien pris de l’est”
Courtesy of Christie’s
It’s a little easier to understand the appeal — and the price — of French photographer Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey’s image of the ruins of the Temple of Jupiter in Athens, which was sold at Christie’s in London for $922,488 in 2003.
Shot in 1842, the daguerreotype is believed to be the oldest image of the temple still existing.
It makes you wonder what the first photograph of the iPhone might be worth in 150 years…
5. Gustave Le Gray’s “The Great Wave, Sete”
Sometimes a combination of the rarity an old image brings and a striking subject matter can be enough to create a high price. For Gustave Le Gray, it created a picture that sold for $838,000 at Sotheby’s in London in 1999.
Le Gray’s image marked the first time that a photographer had managed to expose landscape and sky correctly in the same image. He did this by creating one negative for the sky and one for the sea, and printing them together on the same sheet of paper. In effect, he created a collage.
It’s an easy technique for a modern photographer to emulate but try doing it without a digital camera, Photoshop… and from a glass negative.
Before you start sorting through your archive to pull out better images than these, bear in mind that the value of a photograph at auction depends on all sorts of factors that go beyond the quality of the image. These might include the state of the stock market, the fame of the artist, the number of prints, when the print was made and the restrictions imposed on the negative.
Creating a million dollar photo often requires a lot more than getting the shot right.
[tags] expensive photos, expensive photographs [/tags]