Up until the 60’s, B&W photography dominated over color photography. Nevertheless, some photographers experienced with colors even before Auguste et Louis Lumière produced in 1907 the Autochrome plates enabling color photography.
Think of Edward Steichen’s (1879-1973) famous The Pond-Moonlight photograph.
It was taken in 1904 in Mamaroneck, New York depicting a pond in wooded area, with moonlighting rays reflecting on its surface.
What makes this photograph unique and rare is the experimental approach that Steichen took when manually applying layers of light-sensitive gums to the B&W photo to render colors.
Steichen’s photograph sold for $2.9 million in February 2006, tagging it with the highest price ever paid for a photo print at auction!
The following year, Steichen’s record was eclipsed by the sale of another colour photograph, Andreas Gursky’s 99Cent II Diptychon mounted to acrylic glass (2001) which this time around sold for $3.3 millions at Sotheby’s London auction.
(…) It is significant the diptych was sold as part of a contemporary art sale, and not at a photography sale. Indeed, the Gursky was the only photographic images sold at the evening sale on February 7. The description of the work in Sotheby’s catalogue compares it stylistically to Jackson Pollock’s all-over technique, Sol Lewitt’s repetitive grids, Donald Judd’s stacks of items as well as Andy Warhol’s thematic interest in consumer goods.
Placed in this broader fine art context, Gursky’s work suddenly transcends the normal valuations of contemporary photography.
“Andreas Gursky’s powerful large scale photographs have quickly informed the way that we view the ‘the fetishism of our material world’ and have immediately become a part of established artistic vocabulary,” the catalogue states. “Executed on a grand scale, his photographs survey the post-Capitalist landscape, searching for the signifiers which define our daily lives.”
In broad terms, bidders who attend contemporary art sales are used to paying far higher prices for pieces than collectors at photography auctions, though in recent years that distinction has been blurring.
But since the above lines were written, the list of the highest prices paid for photographs (in US dollars, unless otherwise stated) has changed:
1. Richard Prince, Untitled (Cowboy) (1989), sold $3,401,000 ( up from the 6th position) by which auction house ?
2. Andreas Gursky, 99 Cent II Diptychon (2001), $3,346,456, February 2007, Sotheby’s London auction A second print of 99 Cent II Diptychon sold for $2.48 million in November 2006 at a New York gallery, and a third print sold for $2.25 million at Sotheby’s in May 2006.
3. Edward Steichen, The Pond-Moonlight (1904), $2,928,000, February 2006, Sotheby’s New York auction.
4. Edward Weston, Nude (1925), $1,609,000, April 2008. Sotheby’s New York auction
5. Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe (Hands) (1919), $1,470,000, February 2006. Sotheby’s New York auction
6. Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe Nude (1919), $1,360,000, February 2006. Sotheby’s New York auction.
7. Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey, 113.Athènes, T[emple] de J[upiter] olympien pris de l’est (1842) $922,488, 2003. auction.
8. Gustave Le Gray, The Great Wave, Sete (1857) $838,000, 1999.
9. Robert Mapplethorp, Andy Warhol (1987) $643,200, 2006.
10. Ansel Adams, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico (1948) $609,600, Sotheby’s New York auction, 2006.
Source: Wikipedia’s ( list was started by Catherine Dée Auvil )
I wonder if the list changed again as of today? Do not hesitate to leave comment below if you have more information. Would be interested to know about it.
Meanwhile, what are we waiting for ? Let’s get out there and shoot pictures. The more we shoot, the better our chances to “make” a great photograh ! 😉