I noticed a huge growth of movie related talk on this...photography website...and so I'm working to fix that a little bit. (Maybe I'll work on a movie website or something) Anyway, I'm very interested in an article that I read yesterday about Peter Lik.
Now when I read that the most expensive photograph in the world was sold by Peter Lik, I honestly wasn't surprised. I used to visit his gallery in Waikiki back when I lived in Hawaii, and his stuff is cool, but the presentation is cooler. You walk in knowing you can't afford the toilet paper in the bathroom of that place. The printing is pristine, the photos are blown up to be larger than a middle-classman's living room, and they taken in ridiculously picturesque locations.
The author of this article in The Guardian, Jonathan Jones, starts his article by saying "Photography is not an art. It is a technology." I'm not even going to really address this statement, because it is total, uneducated bullshit. Of course photography can be purely functional, but it can definitely be art. Just because everyone has access to it doesn't mean it has been zapped of its creative possibilities.
Anyway, Jones continues to take a pretty harsh route when critiquing the piece saying:
"This record-setting picture typifies everything that goes wrong when photographers think they are artists. It is derivative, sentimental in its studied romanticism, and consequently in very poor taste. It looks like a posh poster you might find framed in a pretentious hotel room."
While I don't know if the photo itself is in poor taste, I believe it to be an attractive photograph, I don't know if I think Phantom is necessarily an art piece. The skills of Peter Lik lie in his marketing and business skills, overall revealing him to be a very technical human being. His photos reflect that: his galleries are extremely well put together and the presentation of his photographs are second to none. Yet, on a laptop screen, his photos don't look unlike those you would find of some dude on Flickr. Un-creative, but technically impressive; the very definition I believe, of hotel art.
Jones goes on:
"Phantom comes along in the wake of all these representations of the American landscape in art – and lazily emulates them. It is a cliche: easy on the eye, easy on the brain, hackneyed and third-hand."
I definitely think he's being a bit harsh. While Peter Lik's photography isn't of the creative sort, isn't he doing what every photographer dreams of? He has managed to create a profitable business through taking photos. While yes, his strategy isn't artful, it's successful nonetheless. I would argue that his art is marketing, and he uses photography to further his art. I think Lik should be applauded for his success in photography. Honestly, while Peter Lik may not be considered an artist, I don't know a lot of commercial photographers that would be considered an "artist" by Jones' definition.
"If this is the most valuable “fine art photograph” in history, God help fine art photography. For this hollow and overblown creation exposes the illusion that lures us all, when we’re having a good day with a good camera – the fantasy that taking a picture is the same thing as making a work of art."
This makes me wonder if Jones has attempted to be a photographer. It's the same kind of bitter talk I hear from art students or other photographers that think moms or Instagram is ruining photography. I'm exhausted of the whole "anyone who has a camera thinks they are a photographer" argument. If you feel like your work or others work is devalued by "point and shooters on vacation" then maybe your work isn't that valuable to begin with. I also believe that it's a bit low to categorize Peter Lik in this category, because he does have a great sense of what looks good in a photo. He knows the rules of composition and how to present photos in a gallery.
The fact of the matter is, Peter Lik sold a single photo for 6.5 million dollars. As far as I see it, he can call himself whatever he wants, artist or not.