A great master of the photographic art that I love to follow is Peter Lik. Back in December, he made headlines for selling one of his wonderful works – Phantom – for a record $6.5 million. This prompted a discussion on the value of art, with several people aghast that someone would pay that much for ‘just a picture.’ Others congratulated Lik, acknowledging his skill and were genuinely pleased that such artistry is finally being recognized.
I am of the latter group.
However, it seems like as photographers, we are continually educating our clients on the value of an image.
Seen through our eyes (as artists), an image is priceless. We spend countless hours putting together pricelists that will both cover our costs and still attract customers. We antagonize over the simplest of details, worrying if the images we create will be seen as beautiful by our clients as we see them.
Through some clients’ eyes, the bottom line is the pricetag; where can I get the cheapest photographer. But, they also have to be able to turnaround the product within short order. And only on a disc. So, to recap: give it away for darn near free; give it to me now, and only digital files to share without credit.
Hmmmm…. There seems to be a gap here, and this is why there are two camps on the Peter Lik ‘Phantom’ debate. The general public simply does not (for the most part) view photography as art. After all, anyone with a new camera can call themselves a ‘professional photographer,’ right?
What I would ask these folks to do is look at the work Lik produced. Actually look at it. No, not a fleeting glance as if it were on a social media feed, but spend, oh, three minutes actually looking at it. Study the curves, the lines, the light. Then tell me if this is art, or just somebody with a nice camera taking a picture.
I’ve written at length previously about how much experience, continual learning and money we spend producing art. My plea is that people begin acknowledge what goes into garnering quality images; that we are not simply a grind-em-out photobooth.
I always advise people to never decide based on price. Find a photographer's work and style that you love and hire them.