According to the Guardian Newspaper’s art critic, Jonathon Jones, Peter Lik’s “Phantom,” which recently became the world’s most expensive photograph in a private sale for $6.5 million, cannot be art because it is a photograph. Jones is on the public record stating categorically “Photography is not an art. It is a technology.”
Others disagree including the newspaper’s photography critic Sean O’Hagen who provides a laundry list of artist photographers from Edward Steichen to Diane Arbus to support his case. Conspicuous by his absence from this list is Peter Lik.
Perhaps it is because Lik is still alive? Pick your Impressionist or Post Impressionist artist who was ignored until they had shuffled off this mortal coil. Perhaps, with 14 galleries worldwide, Lik’s entrepreneurial flair is the problem. Consider Rembrandt and his studio full of assistances or Andy Warhol’s Factory for the realization that artistic achievement and business acumen are not mutually exclusive. Or perhaps it is his videos channeling the crocodile hunting Steve Irwin laden with enough superlatives to make a celebrity chef proud that irk.
Whatever, but even Lik’s critics admit that the large pints, up to 60 inches (1.5 meters) in size, of his work look better in real life than they do on the internet. A fact confirmed by his 2013 American Aperture Award for best Landscape/Seascape/Nature photograph. As Lik said in a recent press release “The purpose of all my photos is to capture the power of nature and convey it in a way that inspires someone to feel passionate and connect to the image.”
With regard to the larger photographer as artist debate perhaps the last word should be by photographer Philip Jones Griffiths “Am I a news photographer? A press photographer? A photojournalist? An Artist? I deplore the latter moniker because the word is so misused. For me, art is the melding of form and content, and as that is what I strive to do, then perhaps ‘artist’ is correct.”