“Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like”. Poignant and beautiful lines by David Alan Harvey. But to inspire people to loosen their purse strings and pay millions – that is a whole different game. What puts a price tag on these creations? One might ask. Well, apart from the surprise and wonder quotient, it has to have featured in prestigious galleries. Let us browse through the 10 most exclusive photographs in the world and learn the secret behind the big money.

1. Photograph: “Phantom” (2014)
Photographer: Peter Lik
Sold for: $6,5 million


2. Photograph: Rhein II
Photographer: Andreas Gursky
Sold For:  $4.3 million

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhein_II

Gursky captures the effects of globalization in his lenses, in outsized formats, through the eyes of architecture and landscape

RHINE II captures a placid, resting River Rhine. A river caught in between the lush green fields and a brooding sky. It is said that the photographer removed the dog walkers and a factory building digitally. 

This beautiful piece was first attained by the Galerie Monika Sprüth in Cologne.

3. Photograph: “Spiritual America” (1981) Photographer: Richard Prince. Sold for:  $3,9 million

Source: https://consuelarusuphotography.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/

This controversial and debate-provoking photograph of 10 year old Brooke Shields was taken by Gary Ross. This picture has enjoyed the limelight in New York, Brusells, Paris and in Brazil. It is said that it Spiritual America underwent extensive post-production work in an effort to enrich the picture quality.

4. Photograph: “Untitled #96”
Photographer: Cindy Sherman
Sold for: $3,8 million

Source: www.iheartberlin.de

Cindy Sherman was every art collector’s chase because of her provocative style. Most of her creations are ‘untitled’ as she liked to rouse the curiosity of the onlooker and engage them in their own thoughts about the story of the photograph. “Untitled #96” is one of 12 photos of the Centerfold series made at the request of the ArtForum magazine. This rather plain and simple photograph shows Cindy Sherman herself, dressed like a 60’s teenager.

5. Photograph: “To Her Majesty” (1973)
Photographer: Gilbert & George’s
Sold for: (1973) ― $3,7 million

Source: www.lostateminor.com

A classic mixed-media piece, To Her Majesty is claimed to be the duo’s finest works. It is believed that the photographers were immensely influenced and inspired by the works of Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, William Blake, and Oscar Wild. 

6.  Photograph: “Dead Troops Talk” (1992)
Photographer: Jeff Wall’s
Sold for:  $3,6 million

Source: www.greynotgrey.com

A depiction of a scene post an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986. This photograph by Walls brings to light the destructive ensnarement of a Russian contingent during the 1988 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Dead Troops Talking is a staged scene. The piece looks eerily similar to a painting of war.The thought-provoking, soul-stirring piece was sold in May 2012 at Christie’s in New York

7. Photograph: “99 Cent II Diptychon”
Photographer: Andreas Gursky
Sold for:  $3.3 million

Source: thesegunsdontquit.wordpress.com

It is not every day that you come across a photograph of a supermarket that stops you on your track. 99 Cent II by Andreas Gursky is actually a shot of a supermarket aisle with goods displayed on rows. This 2-part work also called a diptych is said to Gursky’s work in 1999 – hence the name. The photograph is a chromogenic color print or c-print which was sold at Sotheby’s

8.  Photograph: “Untitled (Cowboy)” (2000)
Photographer: Richard Prince
Sold for: $3 million

Source: www.metmuseum.org 

This piece is the artist’s effort to bust the myth of an American archetype.The fable of a cowboy – a lone ranger was actually depicted in an advertisement. Prince took a picture of the same. It is said that the photograph is Prince’s effort to find meaning beyond the surface and a representation of the generation’s continuing obsession with an over lived experience. It was sold at Sotheby’s.

9.  Photograph: “Untitled Film Still #48” (1979)
Photographer: Cindy Sherman
Sold for: $2,9 million

Source: www.markrichardson.org

An interesting and eclectic collection of 70 black and white pictures, this saw the artist pose as various female film characters. Like the working-class girl, a solitary housewife, a vamp to name a few. The one interesting trait that flows through all the photgraphs is that Sherman is seen never looking directly into the lenses. The whole set was never named and hence is popular as untitled. It is said that Sherman wanted to preserve the obscurity of the character which is why she never named any of the photographs.

10.  Photograph: “The Pond – Moonlight” (1904) 
Photographer: Edward Steichen
Sold for:  $2,9 million

Source: en.wikipedia.org

This piece by Steichan beautifully captures the Moon has it peeks from behind the tress. The Pond is set before the forest and displays the glittering reflection in its full glory. The technique that Steichan used at that time was considered to be cutting-edge. He manually applied light-sensitive gums, giving the final print more than one color.