Australian photographer, Peter Lik, is best known for his panoramic landscape and nature images. The self-taught photographer, with 30+ years under his belt, refers to himself as the “world’s most influential fine art photographer.” This week, he proved to others why: Lik made art history by breaking the world record for the highest selling photograph. The piece, entitled “Phantom”, was sold to an anonymous bidder for $6.5 million dollars.
This accomplishment marks another pivotal milestone in Lik’s career. The landscape photographer has spent years pushing the boundaries of art – beginning at the early age of eight years old, when he captured his first photograph of a spider web in a family garden. Since then, his objective has been to capture some of the most beautiful places on earth – a passion he “pursues with the restless ebullience of the Crocodile Hunter.”
‘The purpose of all my photos is to capture the power of nature and convey it in a way that inspires someone to feel passionate and connected to the image,’ Lik stated.
But to Guardian Art Critic Jonathan Jones, “Phantom” is more a statement about the growing role of technology in photography rather than “art.” The $6.5 million dollar image depicts a shaft of light cutting through a monochromatic landscape in Antelope Canyon, Arizona.
“The fact that it is in black and white should give us pause. Today, this deliberate use of an outmoded style can only be nostalgic and affected, an ‘arty’ special effect. We’ve all got that option in our photography software…Lik’s photograph is of course beautiful in a slick way, but beauty is cheap if you point a camera at a grand phenomenon of nature,” he states.
Yet, this hasn’t stopped art patrons from purchasing his works for huge sums of money. The same collector who bought Phantom, also purchased two of his other pieces in the past: “Illusion” and “Eternal Moods” for $2.4 million and $1.1 million, respectively.
Scott Reither, who once worked as Lik’s salesman, questions the “absurd pricing structure for artwork today.” He states, “I know the subject of art and value is a touchy and sensitive subject, and I know there’s plenty of foolish people that will pay a ridiculous amount of money for something solely because it’s priced at a ridiculous amount of money.”