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Top 12 Most Expensive Photographs

posted by William DeMassi

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Top 12 Most Expensive Photographs
1. Rhein II
2. Untitled #96
3. Dead Troops Talk
4. 99 Cent II Diptychon
5. The Pond
6. Untitled #153
7. Billy the Kid
8. Tobolsk Kremlin
9. Nude
10. Dovima With Elephants
11. Nautilus
12. Moonrise, Hernandez

Photography is a well known hobby and career around the world. Many people started out with the little shoot and print cameras otherwise known as polaroids, working their way to disposable cameras.

After a while, they started to work with digital cameras and then eventually graduated to the professional DSLR cameras as they got older and saved up enough money to buy one. More and more people get into photography every year, no matter how big or small their skill is.

There are so many kinds of photography out there. You have portraits, flash photography, black and white, colour, fashion, stock, still life, and so many others. There are at least eighty different photography categories altogether.

What has sometimes be seen as nothing more than a hobby has become one of the highest paying careers depending on who photographers work for. Big people with money are willing to pay lots of  money for the right photographers and photographs.

In this article, we’re going to be talking about twelve of the most expensive photographs of all time.


12. Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico by Ansel Adams

ansel adams, Moonrise, most expensive photographs

For $609,600, a print edition of Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico was sold in an auction by Sotheby’s New York on October 17, 2006.

The photograph was taken by American environmentalist and photographer, Ansel Adams, on November 1, 1941. It features a black and white image of US Route 84-285 in the afternoon during the later hours of the day.

Moonrise was considered a “perfect marriage of straight and pure photography” by H.W. Janson, a Russian, American, and Baltic German art history educator.

This photograph was the most popular one in Adam’s career. After extreme popular demand, over one thousand copies of this were made for people to continue to add to their collection.

Adams is mostly well known known for his pictures of the Yosemite National Park located in California.


11. Nautilus by Edward Weston

most expensive photographs

This 1927 black and white photo taken by Edward Weston, an American photographer from Illinois, was turned into a print and sold in an auction from Sotheby’s New York for $1,082,500 in April 2010. Originally, the photographer had sold it for just $10.

The image features a nautilus shell which is a cephalopod mollusk in a spiral shell and small in size tentacles surrounding its mouth.

Weston has been named as one of the most influential photographers of all time and a master of photography in the 21st century.


10. Dovima With Elephants by Richard Avedon

most expensive photographs

Dovima With Elephants is a fashion photograph taken in 1955 by Richard Avedon, an American photographer whose forte was fashion and portraits.

It was sold in Christie’s Paris auction for $1,151,976 on November 20, 2010. The photo was taken in Paris in August 1955.

The black and white photograph shows American model, Dovima, posing between two elephants. This photograph was for Christian Dior’s current collection at the time and it is shown through the dress that the model is wearing.

“ Posing between two elephants ”

Dovima, originally named Dorothy, was one of the most paid models working for Vogue at the time. She was born in New York City on December 11, 1927 and in 1949, she became a model after being discovered on a New York City street by a Vogue editor.

Avedon died on October 1, 2004, and when the New York Times wrote an obituary for him, it was said that at that time for the last half century, beauty, culture, and style in the United States was the way it was because of his work.


most expensive photos9. Nude by Edward Weston

In April 2008, Nude, which was photographed in 1925, was sold at Sotheby’s auction in New York for $1,609,000 in April 2008.

This image is a simple one that features the naked body of a person, but it only shows their backside. By selling this picture, it gave Weston a new record.


8. Tobolsk Kremlin by Dmitry Medvedev

most expensive photos

Taken in 2009 by Dmitry Medvedev, the Prime Minister of Russia, Tobolsk Kremlin, an image features the kremlin in Tobolsk, was sold at a charity auction in Saint Petersburg, Russia, for $1,750,000 in January 2010.

The buyer of the photograph was Mikhail Zingarevich. The Tobolsk became known in 1957 and resides in Tobolsk, Tyumen Oblast in Russia.

Medvedev is more of an amateur photographer rather than a professional, showing a lot of interest and enthusiasm for taking photographs.


7. Billy the Kid by Unknown

There’s not much information on the actual photo itself, including who made the photograph, other than the fact that it was sold at Brian Lebel’s Old West Show & Auction for $2.3 in June 2011.

The buyer of the photograph was William Koch, a businessman and billionaire. The original photograph is said to have been taken late 1879 or early in 1880 and has been considered the most authentic version.

The image features Billy the Kid, also known as two other names: Henry McCarty and William H. Bonney. He was a gunfighter born in New York City who fought in New Mexico City’s war in the county of Lincoln. Billy is seen wearing an outfit that consists of a sweater, vest, hat, and bandana.


most expensive photos6. Untitled #153 by Cindy Sherman

Untitled #153 is another photograph that was taken by American photographer, Cindy Sherman. In November 2010, this photograph was sold for $2,700,000 at an auction hosted by Phillips de Pury & Co. in New York to an anonymous buyer.

The image features another girl, but this time with blue-ish silver hair lying down on dirt and grass. She is dirty, covered with soil, and seems to be looking at the sky in a contemplative manner.


5. The Pond – Moonlight by Edward Steichen

most expensive photographs list

This 1904 photograph taken by American-Luxembourgish photographer, Edward Steichen, was sold in Sotheby’s auction in New York for nearly $3 million in February 2006.

This particular auction was featured in BBC’s documentary, The Genius of Photography. The auctioned piece isn’t the only copy out there. Along with that, there are two other copies that are collected by museums.

The Pond—Moonlight is a black and white image and features a forest in front of a large pool of water with the moon showing its reflection between two trees.

Throughout his career, Steichen has been the artist to be featured on Camera Work, a famous photographic journal, more times than anyone else.


4. 99 Cent II Diptychon by Andreas Gursky

most expensive photos

This photograph taken by Andreas Gursky is actually a two-parter. Some information states that this photo is from 2001 and some states that people think it actually came from 1999 due to the fact that it occasionally referred to as 99 cent.1999.

The image is two images in a grocery store. It shows numerous aisles with various products all in bright and warm colours.

On February 7, 2007, this picture was sold at an auction hosted by Sotheby’s for $3.34 million. Two more prints were sold for $2.25 million in May 2006 in New York and for $2.28 million a few months later in November 2006 in the same place.


3. Dead Troops Talk by Jeff Wall

most expensive photos

On May 8, 2012, this photograph by Jeff Wall, an artist from Canada, was sold for $3,666,500 at Christie’s New York auction. The photograph taken in 1992 features a troop of men lying in a ditch after they were ambushed and attacked by the enemy. The artist’s focus was criticizing male violence and how war can be so destructive.

This image was actually created in a studio rather than taking a realistic image with a camera. All the men were put into the studio and lied down as a plain photo was being taken. Once the image was in the computer, the rest of the photograph was made digitally.

Jeff Wall has been considered one of the top dogs in the art scene in Vancouver since the seventies.


2. Untitled #96 by Cindy Sherman

most expensive photographs list

Photographed by American photographer, Cindy Sherman, in 1981, a print edition of Untitled #96 that was released in 2011 was sold for $3.98 million. It was the highest selling picture of all time until Rhein II took its place. The buyer’s name was Philippe Segalot, a New York dealer.

The photograph is of a woman with short orange hair, orange top, and orange and white checkered skirt lying down on an orange floor, holding what seems to be an ice cream wrapper.

Sherman is someone who takes a lot of photos of herself, working on these projects alone. She does all of the shooting in her own studio and does most of the tasks such as makeup, hair, wardrobe, author, director, and model all on her own.

She is not only a photographer, but a film director as well. She made her first film called Office Killer which was released on December 3, 1997.


1. Rhein II by Andreas Gursky

most expensive photographs

Rhein II is a photo that was taken in 1999 by Andreas Gursky, a professor and photographer from Leipzig, Germany. This photograph is of the River Rhine, a river in six European countries, and is the second and biggest of a set of six. The image is the river, a cloudy sky, and lots of grassy fields.

Gursky is a photographer best known for photos of architecture and landscape photos in colour.

Rhein II became the most expensive photo to be sold and purchased when a print version of it was sold in an auction for $4.3 million.