10 Most Expensive Photographs in the World


Sometimes photographers amaze us with their art, the ability to uniquely reflect the world around us and get a look at it from a different angle. And sometimes doing something completely disgusting or normal so that it is impossible to understand why the work is recognised as a masterpiece. Anyway, these photos were sold for millions of dollars.

#1 Rhein II – Andreas Gursky (1999) $4.3 million

#2 Untitled #96 – Cindy Sherman (1981) $3.9 million

#3 For Her Majesty – Gilbert & George (1973) $3.7 million

#4 Dead Troops Talk – Jeff Wall (1992) $3.7 million

#5 Untitled (Cowboy) – Richard Prince (2001-02) $3.4 million

#6 99 Cent II, Diptychon – Andreas Gursky (2001) $3.3 million

#7 Los – Angeles – Andreas Gursky (1998) $2.9 million

#8 The Pond/Moonlight – Edward Steichen (1904) $2.9 million

#9 Untitled #153 – Cindy Sherman (1985) $2.7 million

#10 Billy the Kid – Unknown (1880) $2.3 million


  • this Andreas Gursky must be hell of a rich guy ! Nevertheless, none of the photos above grabbed my attention.

  • I very much doubt Gursky has received any of this unless it was him that sold it directly to that buyer. He would have more than likely sold to the gallery/buyers for a fraction of the value. and they resold in which case they get all those millions.

  • If you like the Edward Steichen photo, take a look at the paintings by the German artist Caspar David Friedrich.

  • Ah ok. So my new get rich quick scheme is to take poor quality images with my cell phone camera, mark them up to about a million dollars or so, and some rich asshole will assign a million dollars worth of meaning to them and buy them.

    Honestly, that picture of Los Angeles looks like it was taken with a disposable camera.

  • I would think the photo of the little, naked girl in Vietnam should be the most expensive photo in the world as it expresses what some humans are capable of for –most of the time– greed and colonial control.

  • Just another case of “collectors” choosing to believe that something has more value than makes sense — in this case some photographers suddenly mattering more than their images. One or two of these are somewhat compelling as images, but generally this is a bunch of expensive crap 🙂

  • What camera were you rocking in 98? Isn’t one of the first rules of photography that it’s the artist, not the camera?

  • Did you actually ever see this photograph in its glory, or any of Gursky’s work? Or are you judging from a tiny photo on a computer screen?

  • Osvaldo: Exactly. I would highly recommend seeing Gursky’s work in an exhibition of you have a chance. Fascinating.

  • I would say probably none of these photographers got paid in the hand more than a few grand at most. This sort of thing is why there is a vast parasitic network of galleries and advisers and consultants who live very nicely off whatever they can hype up. Preferably after the artist’s death, cos then the “supply” is finite.. but they can print a few up whenever they need a buck.

  • “And sometimes doing something completely disgusting or normal so that it is impossible to understand why the work is recognised as a masterpiece.”

    As usual, no one seems to understand how contemporary fine art photography really works. Let me dumb it way way down:
    a. very rich people with a need to impress their peers
    b. very few consultants, dealers, auctions, galleries that influence (a)
    & determine what’s hot, what’s not

    And be very clear: it all has NOTHING to do with image appeal

  • Spot on! Everything now -including art- is commodified. It is bought and sold and it’s price is manipulated by vested (financial, rather than art) interests just like a share. Nothing to do with art and everything to do with Wall St. type thinking.

  • Gursky had three and Sherman had two in the top 10. How much position do they have in the top 20 ?
    The investment consultants would have easier time convincing the walking-wallets that those brand is safe and promising for keeping as asset.

  • Excluding the last one photo that has historical price, all others are simply for trash!!!

    It is not crazy this one who ask for these crazy money for trash shots but it is crazy this one who pays this price!

    Everyone kid could make better photos that these!

  • Let this be a lesson to all the obsessed, pixel peepers out there. It’s more about who you are and what you photograph rather than the sharpness and iso performance of your equipment.

  • That was Eddie Adams…famous photojournalist…who took that image.
    Photography is totally subjective, it is not about equipment, rather your eye and then how it affects others that see it. it is about light thru a hole in a box, and how you move that box and where it is pointed and what is in front of it.

  • It’s not about “anyon could make these!!!”.

    It’s about someone did it first and the thought and meaning behind it. Like it often is with art.

  • I am a photo blogger and I look at many photos every day. I still don’t get it

    My most popular photo on Pinterest is a pizza shape like a marijuana leaf; go figure

  • It’s been well-documented throughout human history that some people will buy just about anything.

  • I am rich and I dont even know about it…What is art or not is decided by certain kind of people who don’t know a #$@& about photography.

  • I have a few photos like this … who is buying …. I am ready to sell for a good bargain ….

  • Let this be a lesson to Armando . . . some of the pixel peepers (e.g., me) aren’t trying to make money off of our work; rather, we shoot for our own enjoyment. Sort of like shooting a birdie on the golf course isn’t about trying to turn pro. I just want to continue to improve at the hobbies I choose.

  • For those wondering about Gursky and his proceeds, he actually received an extremely “fee” for most of the high-value photos that got sold. Few were sold by the galleries themselves, and some via auction houses later. I have actually met him on one of his exhibitions in New York some 5 years ago and had a brief chat where I touched on high $$ he must be rolling in as a result of his sales. While he isn’t doing bad, he’s (in his own words) made far less from the sales that people are led to believe, basically peanuts compared to the final sale figures.

    That said, his work really needs to be seen and ‘taken in’ in person, on the spot. While I still fail to understand why some of his photos have fetched so much in this day of age of all things instant-digital, some of his work is truly breathtaking.

  • Sometimes, there are many things that are hard to comprehend. These expensive auctioned photographs are sold because of deep personal connection with the buyer or select audience.

  • The Rhein II photograph by Andreas Gursky contains nominal visual interest, and little to hold the viewer‘s eye. The image over-does the layering effect. It strikes this viewer as an unimaginative abstract duo-tone. It doesn’t look like a river but a highway of some sort. So it needs words to explain it — the death knell of a photograph which then dwells in the half-world of photojournalism where a photograph needs words to give it meaning or to tell a “story.” The photograph has taken on the aspect of an expensive joke. It mocks photography by presenting as a worthy photograph. Etc.

  • People often forget that galleries and auction houses take a hefty commission. And if I sell a painting to a collector for $1000, and they re-sell it years later for $10,000, they get that extra money, not me.

    So those huge numbers on an artwork don’t always mean that the artist is rolling in cash.

  • I can agree, on my Flickr account the most popular images are of a black wolf cub I took at a zoo in the Dakotas — not unique or spectacular — just (stupid) cuteness.

  • Personally, i’d rather you spoke on your own behalf rather than seemingly speaking for everyone … “little to hold the viewer’s eye” indeed.. As with anything ‘art’ some people love stuff, some people hate stuff. Its clear how you feel, i don’t like it either but i would rather people framed their opinions as their opinions rather than dressing it up in this sort of pretentious narrative. There are clearly some people who love this photograph and given that its the most expensive photograph ever, there is more evidence in that metric, that it is a masterpiece, than there is that it isn’t a masterpiece when some unknown person on the internet says that it is an ‘unimaginative abstract duo-tone’

  • FYI: I gave my own opinion in my own way, and never suggested that i speak for others. The text should support this independent position. My feelings did not affect my analysis of this work. Further, if others wish to lead their lives and to view photographs in accord with their feelings, then let it be so. Finally, I assessed the worth of this photograph solely in photographic terms, not in economic terms or in market terms or in sentimental terms. This strict photographic approach informed my analysis and my opinion. IHMO, this famed photograph cannot tolerate a close analysis that applies the concepts and the principles of photography.

  • I bet most of the people talking trash in the comments take the most horrid photos, and don’t even know it.

  • I can buy the argument that Gursky’s pictures are better when seen at full size, but if that’s the case then something’s not right..surely if an image is well composed and in other ways interesting, this should show through at any size? Otherwise we’re into “bigger is better” contests, which are useless.

  • Your opinion helps demystify how a photograph that look so commonplace could command an outlandish price in the artwork market.

  • A reversal of the usual: “some photographers suddenly mattering more than their images.”

    This photograph also violates my Chief Principle of Photography: First find an interesting subject.

  • In fine arts, the value of a work is always connected to the biography and work history of the artists – just as a hint about the seemingly crazy prices for Gursky’s works.

  • What did Barnum say … a sucker is born every minute???? I am fascinated by abstract art and photography of every kind .. I have won many awards with my photography and I must say half of the pictures above are just random crap , nothing more nothing less… all is in the viewers adaptation of what they see and like . I personally would like a subject to focus on with clarity and explanation … this artist only has things with no explanation which leaves the audience wondering …. that is the attraction . But who in their right mind would waste that much money on a visual question… when they clearly could have funded several students to go to a photography school and learned a trade , or feed the hungry , saved the sick , built a few homes for homeless people . Yeah complete assholes bought this shit and guess what they cant take it with them … Karma.

  • That’s not really true. Size matters in art 🙂
    In art criticism the size of an artwork is really important. It’s a ‘choice’ that the artist makes.

    You can’t downsize or enlarge! an artwork and expect it to still work. Try blowing up some of your photos to the size of Gursky’s images. They won’t work. Or take a miniature size sculpture of Michelangelo’s works and put it on your desk. Do you still think it’s a masterpieace? No, It should be in it’s life size to have that impact on you. To give you the feeling of a deity/ super human.

    Besides, Gursky’s large images also have to do with the new age grand photo-based art in comparison with grand paintings that dominated art in the past. The art world revolves around photos now

  • ‘Random crap’? ‘Complete assholes bought this shit’? ‘I have won many awards for photography…’

    Your arrogance is pretty breathtaking. I bet your photography is influenced by Steichen and you don’t even know it. Karma.

  • It’s like paintings. Why would you pay millions upon millions of dollars for a Van Gogh? Because it’s shear beauty. Or historical relevance (see: Billy the Kid)

  • When I initially commented I seem to have clicked the -Notify me
    when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment
    is added I get four emails with the exact same comment.
    There has to be a way you are able to remove me from that service?

  • I constantly spent my half an hour to read this website’s articles or reviews everyday along with a cup of coffee.

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