Friday Happy Hour: Why “Unremarkable” Photos Go for $500K+ and More

Friday Happy Hour: Why “Unremarkable” Photos Go for $500K+ and More

Have you ever posted something to your blog or social media and received negative responses from a bunch of people you suspect haven’t really read or looked at your content? It happened on Allen’s post, “Rant: I Love Photography“, and it happened in reaction to the news that William Eggleston’s prints sold for a total $5.9 million at auction. PetaPixel came back with a post on “Why This Photograph is Worth $578,500“, expressing a sentiment that we’re on board with.

Oh, and did we mention that the first phase of a brand new PhotoShelter launches tomorrow, March 24th? Hard to forget, since it’s such a major upgrade in the way you use PhotoShelter. So if you’re a member, expect some big and exciting changes come Saturday. And if you’re not a member…well, why not give us a try for free?

“Why This Photograph is Worth $578,500”

PDN reported last week that 36 of William Eggleston’s prints sold for a total of $5.9 million at a Christie’s auction. That launched a spur of comments on photography blogs about how Eggleston’s work is rather unremarkable, and how one particular photo – “Memphis (Tricycle)” , which sold for $578,500 and is shown below  – is a snapshot that “any fool with a camera could have taken”.

Photo by William Eggleston/Source: PetaPixel

In response, freelance photographer David Cohen for PetaPixel wrote a post on why, in fact, this particular photograph by Eggleston is worth more than half a million dollars. But what starts as a defense of the photo’s value turns into something much deeper: how consumers have come to misunderstand the way in which art is valued, and what perception must be taken in order to understand its significance. “To understand which factors are responsible for the value of a work of art, you must first understand what art is,” writes Cohen. “Art is a way of seeing the world. It challenges perceptions, evokes emotions and stimulates thought.”

Cohen goes on to explain how the greatest works come in times of change – from Impressionism to Expressionism, from black and white to color. Eggleston’s work represents just that – “a movement that gave us an entirely unprecedented looks at the way we live, and forever changed the art of photography.” We appreciate PetaPixel’s response and acknowledgement of photography as an art; plus the significance a simple, even mundane, photo can have on the world.

Professional British photo awards hit by controversy

Beyond the cash prize (if there is one), photo awards are often touted as great opportunities for extended exposure and recognition. But sometimes there’s that lingering question whether they’re worth the entry fees (if there are fees) or whether art buyers and clients actually use them to find new photographers.

Now there’s another question thrown into the mix – are they even fair? The British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP) was thrown into the hot seat this week when it was revealed that four of the BIPP’s seven judges won awards, reports BBC. Contest rules state that judges are allowed to enter the competition, but are not allowed to oversee a category in which they’ve entered. A surge of complaints from entrants has caused BIPP to reconsider the rules, though they maintain that the judging is unbiased.

What do you think? Should contest judges be able to enter the competition for which they are judging? Tell us in the comments.

Can mold be beautiful? Artist says yes.

Estonian artist Heikki Leis shared his photography series “Afterlife” with Flavorwire for what they’re calling “Dazzling Photos of Rot and Fungus“. Heikki’s photos are wonderfully illuminated, that’s for sure, but are layers of rot and bubbles of moldy perspiration beautiful? It’s your call!

Photo by Heikki Leis/Source: Flavorwire

2012 photography grant call for submissions

The Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation for International Photography is once again seeking entries for outstanding work in global and social documentary photo reportage. Covering such pressing issues as health, poverty, war, famine, religious/political persecution, and much more, photographers from all over the world ages 18+ are encouraged to apply. Entries are due by May 31, 2012. For more information on entry rules, please visit The winning photographer receives a $5,000 grant.

Jim Goldstein’s Mastering Star Trail photo video course

Among many things, outdoor and nature photographer Jim Goldstein is known for his fantastic star trail photography, and now he’s sharing his secrets in a 4-day online workshop called “Mastering Star Trail Photography“. This video course is for any photographer interested in learning how to make great astronomy landscape photos. The course runs for one hour per day from March 26-29 at 9am PST, and includes instruction and pro tips on every aspect of star trail photography. Admission to the live online stream is free, or you can pre-order the videos before the workshop starts on 3/26 for $74.99 – and with purchase you get a copy of Jim’s eBook, “Photographing the 4th Dimension – Time“.

Jim’s photo video course will cover everything from gear to technique to editing, so it’s well worth investing the time to tune in. We’re huge fans of Jim’s work and even featured one of his star trail photos in 20 Stunning Photos of Nature’s Rarities. For more information on Jim and the workshop, visit Inspired Exposure’s webinar page.

Photo by Jim Goldstein/Source: Inspired Exposure

Free webinar: Creating the mood with texture, color, and sharpness

Educator, photographer, and author Katrin Eismann hosts a free webinar featuring color management, editing, and enhancement techniques that you can use to improve your digital workflow. Katrin, Chair of MPS Digital Photography Department at SVA, will show us how to expand Photoshop’s capabilities with HDR effects to enhance your digital photos. Two sessions are available: March 29th at 12pm EDT and 2pm EDT. More info here.

Russ Taylor’s “Sparkling Sands” photo featured on National Geographic News

National Geographic News blog posts daily nature and science headlines, often accompanied by photo slideshows. This week PhotoShelter member Russ Taylor‘s photo was featured in a slideshow on bioluminescence in the sea’s waves, caused by marine microbes called phytoplankton. Scientists are just starting to figure out these creatures create their unique illumination – in the meantime, we’ll enjoy the awesome photos that capture it.

Photo by Russ Bishop/Source: National Geographic News

New technology will allow cameras’ focus to mimic your eyes

“We take it for granted, but the human ability to focus instantly on particular objects in our field of vision is a remarkable skill,” writes Killian Fox for The Observer in Autofocus and the importance of ‘defocusing’“. While we might look at digital cameras as highly advanced, the truth is that our eyes are the most advanced tool in our arsenal. But now two scientists from University of Texas are working on developing technology that will allow for greater speed and accuracy in digital photography. The new autofocus system would actually use defocus, which better determines the focus distance and would improve future digital cameras. Be on the lookout for more.

The Photo System by David Jay

Judging by wedding photographer David Jay’s website, he does not fool around. The photographer-speaker-entrepreneur-lover has spoken at WPPI and PPA conferences over the years, and has now released The Photo System: A 10 Step Guide to Starting Your Photography Business. It’s a flashy, interactive online guide compiling his top tips for getting started in the photo industry including “making friends”, “building a workflow”, and “marketing and branding”. Each step has a “Let’s get practical” section with additional reading, assignments and questions to ask yourself. Check it out and let us know what you think.


Jennifer Davick films legendary ham man

PhotoShelter member and food photographer Jennifer Davick produced this nano-documentary on legendary ham man Allan Benton, whose pork products are used by esteemed chefs like David Chang and Thomas Keller. Benton speaks about the process of making ham and bacon (drool), and the family recipe that was developed in a log smokehouse behind his Tennessee childhood home. Davick incorporates a neat smoke effect from inside the smokehouse – check out her work below. The video was also recently featured on New York Magazine‘s Grub Street here.

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There are 10 comments for this article
  1. Brett at 1:31 pm

    “Why This Photograph is Worth $578,500”

    Because of the artists name. Nothing more. It is a great photograph, but the market valuation, literally, comes entirely from the artist’s name. If it was discovered that it was a mis-attribution it would be worth $100 or less. Fact.

  2. Kevin W at 6:53 pm

    Should judges be allowed to enter the contest they are judging? No. Not even if they cannot enter images into the category they judge. They have the unfair advantage of being in close contact with their fellow “judge” peers. To me it seems to be a conflict of interest.
    My Point: Does the referee also play in the game? No.

  3. pam at 7:09 pm

    Good article and the changes are wonderful. I love the new image browser.

    Have to agree to disagree on the worthiness of photos. Although if one of mine sold for that amount I’d have to change my opinion on it.

    About Alan’s post. I posted on that and disagreed with some of the points. My POV was taken from many places reflected things that were going on in the photography world in general, my G+ stream (the what would you do post), things that were going on in my twitter stream, my personal life etc. Plus that it was something of a dust up weekend, at least for me. The chance that a post would be taken out of context, in addition to the post itself is pretty high for all people who post on blogs or reply to them. That is why I don’t take it personally when I’m misunderstood either in a post or reply to a post. I usually take longer to filter my opinions and when I do I am better understood but everything for days was off the cuff. The idea that those are the comments that are the most truthful are not true.

    You own a photography hosting businesses. Everything you put out reflects that and I would be surprised if all of your personal opinions reflected the ‘company view’ but they might and that’s ok. ,

  4. brian murphy at 4:24 am

    i have always found that photographers are many times the worst judges of what others consider art “how is that art? 10k for that i can take that shot with my eyes closed1″…but they dont, because they are often out of tune with what buyers are looking for art to reflect and how photography that looks simple to us “experts” captures a perfect moment in time

  5. Pingback: The reality of being an artist. | Daniel D. Teoli Jr
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