15 Insanely Expensive Photographs Which Cost More Than What You’ll Earn Your Entire Life

Ok, now you can delete those Instagram photos.

These photographs are clearly a different league.

1. Rhein II by Andreas Gursky (Germany) – Sold for $4.3 Million

The Rhine II 1999 by Andreas Gursky born 1955

Rhein II is a photograph made by German visual artist Andreas Gursky in 1999. In 2011, a print was auctioned for $4.3 million, making it the most expensive photograph ever sold.

The photograph was produced as the second (and largest) of a set of six depicting the River Rhine.  In the image, the Rhine flows horizontally across the field of view, between green fields, under an overcast sky. Extraneous details such as dog-walkers and a factory building were removed by the artist via digital editing.

Justifying this manipulation of the image, Gursky said…

“Paradoxically, this view of the Rhine cannot be obtained in situ, a fictitious construction was required to provide an accurate image of a modern river.”

What’s so special?

Gursky produced a very large chromogenic colour print of the photograph, mounted it onto acrylic glass, and then placed it in a frame. The image itself measures 73 by 143 inches (190 cm × 360 cm), while the frame measures 81 by 151 inches (210 cm × 380 cm).

2. Untitled #96 by Cindy Sherman (USA) – Sold for $3.8 Million


Untitled #96 is a photograph made by American visual artist Cindy Sherman in 1981. In 2011, a print was auctioned for $3.89 million, making it the most expensive photograph ever sold at that time. The painting is mysterious as Cindy never shared details about who the girl in the picture is, what is the context etc. Also she left the painting unnamed, adding to the elusive nature.

Chromogenic color print, image: 24 x 48 in. (61 x 121.9 cm)

3. Dead Troops Talk by Jeff Wall (Canada) – Sold for $3.6 Million


Wall was known to create imagined scenes with a core of truth.’Dead Troops’ is a montage made in 1992, as a vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter of 1986. The painting is so realistic, it almost looks like a real photograph!

Transparency in lightbox, image: 90¼ x 164¼ in. (229.2 x 417.2 cm.)

4. 99 Cent II Diptychon by Andreas Gursky (Germany) – Sold for $3.3 Million

Andreas_Gursky-04 .jpg

99 Cent II Diptychon from 2001 is a two-part photograph. The work depicts an interior of a supermarket with numerous aisles depicting goods resulting in a colorful work. The work is digitally altered to reduce perspective.

Chromogenic color prints face-mounted to Plexiglas, images: 81 x 134 1/4 in. (205.7 x 341 cm.)

5. The Pond-Moonlight  by Edward Steichen (USA) – Sold for $2.9 Million


The Pond—Moonlight is a pictorialist photograph by Edward Steichen. The photograph was made in 1904 in Mamaroneck, New York, near the home of his friend, art critic Charles Caffin. The photograph features a forest across a pond, with part of the moon appearing over the horizon in a gap in the trees.

Multiple gum bichromate print over platinum, image: 16 1/16 by 19 11/16 in. (41 by 50.8 cm.)

6. Untitled #153 by Cindy Sherman (USA) – Sold for $2.7 Million


Yet another mysterious painting by Cindy Sherman. The context is insure and it raises a lot of questions in your mind when you watch it.

Chromogenic color print, image: 67 1/4 x 49 1/2 in. (170.8 x 125.7 cm)

7. Billy The Kid by Unknown Artist – Sold for $2.7 Million


Tin-type, image: 2×3 inch (5.08×7.62 cm)
Only authenticated photograph of the historical figure.

As the only authenticated image of Billy the Kid, this tin-type photo embodies the American West and one of its largest personalities.

8. Tobolsk Kremlin by Dmitry Medvedev (Russia) – Sold for $1.7 Million


This photograph taken by Medvedev, chose a scene steeped in Russian tradition. His photograph, taken from the air, shows the white stone walls and towers of the Kremlin in Tobolsk.

9. Nude by Edward Weston (USA) – Sold for $1.6 Million


Among the twentieth century’s most influential art photographers, Edward Weston (United States, 1886–1958) is widely respected for his many contributions to the field of photography. Along with Ansel Adams, Weston pioneered a modernist style characterized by the use of a large-format camera to create sharply focused and richly detailed black-and-white photographs.

10. Georgia O’Keeffe (Hands) by Alfred Stieglitz (USA) – Sold for $1.4 Million

Georgia O'Keeffe--Hands, by Alfred Stieglitz (American, Hoboken, New Jersey 1864–1946 New York)

Palladium print, image: 9 5/8 by 7 5/8 in. (24.5 by 19.5 cm.

11. Untitled (Cowboy) by Richard Prince (USA) – Sold for $1.1 Million

Richard Prince-Untitled (cowboy)(1989)

Ektacolor print, image: 50 x 70 in. (127 x 177.9 cm.)

12. Dovima with elephants by Richard Prince (USA) – Sold for $1.1 Million


Avedon’s iconic photograph of Dovima, one of the most famous American supermodels was originally published in Harper’s Bazaar. There were two photographs from the shoot, this one and another where Dovima’s dress is black. However, the negative from the “white version” mysteriously disappeared and only one print was ever made.

13. Nautilus by Edward Weston (USA) – Sold for $1.08 Million


Nautilus is a black-and-white photograph taken by Edward Weston in 1927 of a single nautilus shell standing on its end against a dark background. It has been called “one of the most famous photographs ever made” and “a benchmark of modernism in the history of photography.

Gelatin silver print, image: 9 3/8 by 6 5/8 in. (23.8 by 16.8 cm.)

14. One by Peter Lik (Australia) – Sold for $1 Million


This image, resembling an impressionist painting, was taken on the banks of the Androscoggin River in New Hampshire.There was only one print ever made.

Llfochrome hand-print

15. Untangling  by Jeff Wall (Canada) – Sold for $1 Million


Untangling fuses the conventions of cinema with the authority of grand painting. This large backlit cibachrome transparency shows a complex and seemingly chaotic environment in which a huge knot of hemp rope lies across a garage floor. In the foreground a mechanic is shown seated on a pile of rubber tubing, contemplating the ropes as if beginning to untangle them. His troubled features contrast greatly with those of the younger man browsing motors at the rear of the shop.

Colour cibachrome transparency, light box, 207.1 x 241.0 x 26.2 cm

Photo courtesy – PoeticOneirism, Artblart, Lik, FashionforFashionlovers, Josh Finche, Agility, Portland Art Museum, Whoandwhom, Greynotgrey, NGV.


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