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Iconic images - most seen, most expensive and most controversial!!

At our last club meeting we were treated to a talk by our very own Chair Laura Drury. With the subject being ICONIC mages Laura showed us the world's most viewed photograph, which if you have Windows XP on your computer you would have seen it as it is the default wallpaper. The image was taken by professional photographer Charles O'Rear in 1996 and was of the Napa Valley in California depicting green rolling hills, deep blue sky and fluffy white clouds, titled "Bliss".

Laura then showed us the world's most expensive photograph, an image taken by Andreas Gursky in 1999 titled Rhine II. This photograph was sold in 2001 by Christies for the incredible amount of 4.3 million dollars and although a huge 5ft by 10ft mounted on perspex, for some they may wonder why someone would pay so much for this print. Of course what we think about an image is subjective and for some this image may well have warranted paying that amount of money. We can all make our own minds up! Is there a shimmering gloss on the river, smudged softness in the cloud, texture in the grass and path? What is it that makes this image so expensive?

Gursky has also produced other important images which reflect his iconic style in terms of how his images are digitally manipulated and reinvent what a photo might be, allowing us to question these made images: what is it that we are looking at and what does it mean? Laura showed us his image titled "Amazon" which depicts a warehouse made up of a series of digital images put together showing the vastness and scale of the "stuff" that reflects consumerism and globalisation. Looking at this image makes you feel like you are drowning. Another of his images which reflects consumerism is the famous "99 cent" , which is another digitally stitched together effort showing a myriad of objects with vibrant colours and packaging. Both of these photographs are visually interesting and the fact that Gursky made huge prints of his photographs, which were then placed alongside paintings in galleries is probably what also helped to give them their iconic status.

Take a look for yourselves at Andreas Gursky's work. The two mentioned above are certainly very striking.

Laura then talked to us about the controversial photographer Richard Prince whose images are seen as iconic but also challenging in the way they were made. They are basically "appropriated" images which are photographs that have been "re-photographed." One of these images was "Untitled Cowboy", which was sold for 3 million dollars in 2003. Prince had "made" the image by taking a photograph of a Marlborough cigarettes advertising poster and removing the branding to just leave the cowboy in the image. This photograph created a dichotomy between those who were incensed by this and those that rose to defend him. By "reproducing" a number of Marlborough advertising posters Prince surely made it the challenge for people looking at these photographs to say whether this is copying or art; in an interview Prince made the point that the original adverts were themselves a construct of what admen had read or seen about cowboys and how this has translated in to the images taken for their campaign. Basically it could be said that what Prince had selected the cowboys not the cigarettes in his appropriated image and made this his own "art work". Take a look at Richard Prince's work and make up your own minds.

I am sure that the club members, including myself, had varying opinions on what this controversial photographer had done.

This was a really interesting and thought provoking evening from Laura and we were very grateful for her giving us such a different talk !!! Thank you Laura.

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