Federation Bells is an instillation in Birrarung Marr in Melbourne that is made up of 39 upturned bells. It was designed and built in 2001 by Anton Hasell and Neil McLachlan as part of the centenary celebrations for Australia’s Federation and unlike many questionable pieces of “modern art” this one actually has a use, given that the bells do actually ring. They sound 3 times a day and also play for special events and celebrations. The public can also create their own compositions to play on the bells through a unique website.
The sculpture is laid out over a space in the park that allows you to walk through them as they play, which is a soothing and surreal experience and makes them something unique in a city that is known for quirky and unusual public artwork. Upside down cow in a tree anyone?
The photograph in question. Incidentally Gursky will not receive a penny from the sale of his image as it was sold from one collector to another.
I’ve written before about the value of photography, but finding out that Andreas Gursky’s photograph, “Rhein II” (above) has just been sold for $4.3 million at Christies has caused me to consider this again as it relates to photography as an artform.
This is the most expensive photograph ever sold, but why is it worth $4.3 million? What is a fair price for a technically proficient rendering of a moment. Is this photo actually worth this much? Well, yes it is. Because that is what someone has paid for it.
In real estate circles they say a house is worth whatever someone will pay for it. I think this applies to photography as well, or more broadly to art. A piece of artwork, be it a photograph or a painting or a sculpture, is such a personal and varied thing that it is almost impossible to give a value to. There is no formula like for example a car, where the maker might calculate the cost of parts and overheads to build the car and also add in marketing and shipping costs and then a margin to come up with a price per vehicle. But while you could take these things into account when pricing art, a piece of art is a one off. Although it may be copied, it is the only one of it’s kind that will ever exist. It may be a social commentary or an expression of some inner conflict, but either way it is something that only that artist could have produced and has much more emotional value than a car ever will.
Most of us can tell if a car is well made, but because art is so subjective, there is no way to tell if a painting is well made (is that line supposed to be there?). We can only tell if it speaks to us or not. And that I believe is the only measure by which we can give art a value. There has been a bit of outrage over the price paid for Gursky’s photograph. A lot of “I could have done that with my Iphone” type sentiment. But one person was so moved by the image that they forked out a $4.3 million for it, therefore it is worth $4.3 million dollars.
Went for a short trip to Phillip Island recently with great plans to shoot some coastal scenes in beautiful light. The coastal scenes were there, not so much the beautiful light. The weather stayed gray and wet for most of the time, except for a few short breaks, and not the cool, stormy, dramatic kind that makes for great photos either. Just flat gray. So off we went in search of other subjects, and there are plenty around on the island. What we found were koalas, penguins, wallabies and farm animals that were all happy to pose for our cameras and we had a wonderful time meeting these locals.
It served as a great reminder of the importance of being flexible and working with the conditions you’re given. Travel photography, for better or worse, is not like studio photography in that you can’t control every tiny aspect of your environment. In fact, you can’t really control any of it. It’s frustrating and rewarding at the same time.
Hope you enjoy this little gallery of what we came away with. Just click on an image above to open.
As for the coastal scenes, planning has already begun for the next trip.
The good folk at PhotoShelter are offering up yet more great photo business advice. Apart from offering a image storage and website solution for photographers, these guys produce e-books by the dozen and run a great blog that often includes webinars featuring art directors, photographers and people in the photography and publishing industries that provide some useful insight on how photographers are hired and how to construct a portfolio amongst other things. And they do it all for free (except for the storage and website bit).
Their latest offer is the Photo Business Bootcamp. A 5 week course that you can receive by e-mail to help you in starting up or growing your photography business. The course covers finding inspiration, designing and using your website effectively, online marketing and selling your services and your photos. I’ve signed up and am looking forward to getting started.