MY PETER LIK STORY

In late 2005, I visited Canyonlands National Park in Utah and captured this photograph - Whispering Winds of Change. This image and location was inspired by Lik's early Utah work.

These days, not a week goes by that I don’t hear Peter Lik’s name.  More often than not, I hear someone mention his name in one form or another while I’m exhibiting my work.  If you’re a color landscape photographer who deals with the public, you may know what I’m talking about.  The fact is, Peter Lik has become widely known from his many galleries and more recent television show.  Up until now, every time I’ve heard his name over the past 7 years, I haven’t mentioned a thing about having known him, worked for him, and having a good understanding of his work, ethics, or general photographic gallery offerings.  I have chosen to not be associated and to not give his name more weight by repeating it aloud.  Well, it seems that much of the world now knows Peter Lik, and for good or bad, my time with the Peter Lik Galleries is part of my photographic journey…it’s part of my story.  In an effort to be more open to my audience through this blog, I have decided it’s time I tell my Peter Lik story.

At the Beginning

As a dedicated young photographer some years ago, near the beginning of my photographic journey, I began to understand and explore the many possibilities and career paths that I could follow with the camera.  I had been having small successes selling my own photography during weekend art fairs.  Most of these photographs were of temples, landscapes or portraits from my trips to Southeast Asia.  I had a good eye for this style of travel photography, and was having my first taste of talking-photography with the public and with representing and selling artwork.

Near that same time, a mostly-unknown photographer was opening the doors to a new gallery in town.  Peter Lik, a photographer with a number of galleries in his home country Australia, had already made multiple attempts to gain success in the U.S. and had failed in both Monterey and San Francisco.  Now I watched as he made another attempt in my hometown of Lahaina, Hawaii.  Front Street Lahaina was in need of something new and different and the Lik gallery stood out right away.  I was totally impressed by the gallery – the size and presentation of the individual pieces, the total gallery space, it was all fabulous and very inspiring to me at the time.  Although I had considered following the avenue of “travel photographer”, the Lik gallery was inspiring and I was now considering a new path as a “landscape photographer”.  As I began to explore the landscape more in depth in my own work, the decision became clear.  My love of nature and the outdoors, of solitude, and of a desire to pave my own way and to eventually work for myself, became clear.  I was to be an artist!

As a passionate photographer, it wasn’t long before I decided I wanted to work for the gallery.  I wanted to learn the fine art gallery business, and I wanted to be around photography as much as I could.  I made monthly visits into the Lik Gallery and spoke to various consultants and the gallery director – Jesse Donovan.  I remember feeling I know more about photography than any of these guys working here, so was surprised to hear Donovan say that photographic experience didn’t necessarily matter much in selling the work, and he typically hired people that did not have photographic experienceReally!?  I thought.  (It wasn’t until later did I understand this reasoning more clearly.)  I continued my visits and made it increasingly clear that I wanted to be a part of the gallery.

Nine months or more had passed.  I continued working nights at a local restaurant while working hard to sell my own photography in local art fairs.  One night while at the restaurant, Jesse came in and sat at the bar.  I went over to say hey while adding in some comment about wanting to work for him, and finally my persistence had paid off – he was actually there to tell me that an opening had become available and if I were still interested, I should come in and talk with him further.  A week later, I was employed by the Peter Lik Gallery and my professional art consultant career had begun.

Lik owes much of his success to his many images of Antelope Canyon in Arizona. As a landscape photographer, it's difficult to resist visiting such a location. I photographed the canyon in 2005, and again in 2008.

Working for Peter Lik Gallery – Lahaina

It was a very exciting, and very interesting time to be working for the Lik Gallery.  The gallery was essentially self-sufficient and was operated by director Donovan, an accountant/bookkeeper, and about six of us art consultants.  When I started there, I think the gallery had been open about one year, and the sales graph was moving consistently upward.  At that time, the sales were approximately 100k-160k a month.
Jesse worked with me and another new consultant quite a bit and began to teach us the sales strategy involved.  I remember how awkward it felt initially to take a piece of art off-the-wall and into the viewing room to discuss with the prospective buyers.  I certainly wasn’t born a salesman.  In fact, I never much liked pushy sales people and the thought of being one was an early challenge to overcome.  But as the weeks went by, this wonderful thing was happening – between the way Donovan was teaching and the passion I had for photography, I was discovering a way to sell without being one of those…salesmen.  I was figuring out a way to be true, honest, direct and authentic with my prospective buyers, while lacing it all with genuine enthusiasm, and what do you know, I was starting to sell!  And, starting to sell pretty well, I might add!

As a passionate photographer, I loved being in the gallery.  I loved viewing the work, talking about the work with visitors, putting on the white gloves and pulling out the beautiful prints that were in stock.  Before too long, I knew every shot that Lik had taken, the title of the piece, the location, and back-story and techniques involved in each shot.  I could talk to the customers for hours, if need be.

One of the things that made this time so very interesting, is that it was in this period when Lik was changing all his limited edition prints from the traditional Ilfochrome prints hand-printed by a master printer in Australia, to Fuji Supergloss prints being printed by a machine.  It was in this first year that I worked with the gallery, that I was able to see the entire collection in both Ilfochrome, and Supergloss!  The difference was B I G.  Some of the images that I thought were so beautiful turned garish.  Two of the images I remember changing the most were Kapalua, and Serenity.  Both were absolute stunners as Ilfochromes, and afterwards…not so much.  Well, to be fair, not to my liking.  It seemed I preferred the artistic decisions Lik made prior to switching to digital prints.

Another thing that made it such an exciting time is that we began to break new records for Lik.  Within that first year I was at the gallery, we broke 200k in a month for the first time ever for a Lik Gallery, and then started doing so consistently.  It was around this time, and directly from the success of these 200k months that we were achieving, that allowed for the next big step in Peter Lik’s career.

Working for Peter Lik Gallery – Las Vegas

Soon after the 200k months in Lahaina, Lik was able to negotiate his way into a space into the Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas, a longtime goal of his.  Rumors began in our gallery about Donovan, the-now International Gallery Director, and a couple others heading out to Vegas to help get the next chapter going.

A number of factors were at play for me, but I found myself wanting to be one of the staff that moved out to Vegas.  I had been getting island fever on Maui, felt confident that the gallery would be a success in Vegas and felt that it would be a great learning opportunity.  After discussing the possibilities in-depth with my wife, we decided it would be a good opportunity and we’d go for it.  I approached Jesse with a desire to go and he welcomed me aboard.

A month later, we’re in Las Vegas with all of our possessions, a new apartment, a car, a new wardrobe, ready to go to work.  There were four of us from the Lahaina gallery, plus a few others brought on from Lik’s earlier San Francisco gallery, and a couple other rogue consultants, in addition to Lik himself, who was leading the charge.  A handful of us worked with Lik to help finish the gallery and the floors and ready everything for the Grand Opening.

Before we knew it, we were opening the doors to Las Vegas and a new chapter in Peter Lik’s career.  Up until this point, breaking 200k in a month was a gallery record.  Now, I was personally selling 100k a month!  And so were others.  I think this gallery was doing 700k+ those first months.  It was nuts!  As an art consultant, I’d go to work expecting to do 10k a day.  I’d talk non-stop for my entire shift and be disgusted with my own voice by time I was off work.  It was constant – one presentation after another for your entire shift.  With the way money flows in Las Vegas and peoples impulsive behavior while visiting Sin City, it was an obvious recipe to success – not to mention the fact that the gallery and work was stunning and unlike anything most people had seen before.  It was a huge hit.

Up until this point, Lik had given Donovan a lot of control as to how the galleries and sales strategies would be operated.  Donovan had proven success and the sales strategy we used were ethical and fair to collectors, and producing for the galleries.  Good for the clients, good for the owner, good for the staff.  It was all good and it worked well.  Lik’s prices were reasonably set and ranged from $800 to $4500.  You could purchase a nice big beautiful framed 60″ print (1.5 meter) piece for above your sofa for around 2600 bucks.  Fair enough.

While most of us were a good strong crew of genuine people who simply wanted to work hard and earn a good living, there were a couple that were simply jockeying for position and feeding the insatiable ego of the artist to get ahead.  As the months went by, good staff began to fall victim to the moves played by others, including Donovan, and a more suspect type of person came into control.  This began another very interesting time for the Lik Gallery.

Ironic that just a few years after the "emerging" photographer was inspired by the "master" photographer, now Lik has been inspired by my La Jolla works, such as this composition of the Scripp's Pier that I first made in 2006.

Value of Art?

Once Donovan left and a…different type of person took over, a lot changed.  The entire sales strategy shifted.  Initially, sales dropped.  In order to continue making deals happen and having good daily numbers, they started giving away the house.  Buy one, get one free.  Hell, buy one get two free!  Whatever they could do to get the deal done.    They didn’t know how to achieve the same success as before, so they improvised.  By giving away all this work to get the deals done, it at first appeared to management that the numbers were good, but of course the numbers were all funky and the margins were out of whack.  In order to compensate, drastic changes started happening.  Staff received huge pay cuts for one.  Obviously, this didn’t go over well.  Pricing and limited edition changes to the artwork quickly came next.  There was a significant price increase across the board to the artwork, and Artist Proofs were suddenly born (added to the regular editions) and priced very high – like $25+k.  Before long, a number of things were being realized to these people – mostly regarding the cost to the customer and what they could get away with, and the entire dance became about value.

This focus on make-believe value was another interesting shift in Lik’s career.  Soon enough, they realized that having the $25+k Artist Proofs (AP) helped sell the $3k and $4k pieces.  Someone would fall in love with a piece that was being showed as an AP and be told is was $32,000!  Their heart sank knowing they could not afford that, and then they’d offer you a “regular edition” piece for only $3700.  What a bargain!  You were sold.

My Time to Move On

Seven months seemed like 2 years.  I had gone from being very dedicated to the gallery, to having trouble even talking with customers about the work.  I had sold over $700k of Lik’s artwork in those seven months, but now couldn’t stomach it any further.  Without notice, I quit the Lik Gallery.

What happened?  Well, the shift I discuss above and the myriad of aftereffects from it were a big part of it.  This whole shift toward selling the work on a false-value seemed like a load of shit, to put it simply.  I always prided myself on being able to successfully sell while being honest and genuine to the collector, and suddenly I felt like I had to feed people a bunch of lies.  I know the subject of art and value is a touchy and sensitive subject, and I know there’s plenty of foolish people that will pay a ridiculous amount of money for something solely because it’s priced at a ridiculous amount of money, but at the end of the day, I have to be able to make sense of it and explain it to myself in a sensible way.  For me, it is important to believe in the product and to use my knowledge and enthusiasm to successfully sell it.  When the knowledge and enthusiasm wasn’t enough to sell the now-high-priced work and the discussion with prospective buyers had to become about value, I was done…because I did not believe in the value of the product.*

Secondly, the new directors of the gallery were a big part of me leaving.  I was not accustomed to working with, or amongst, these type of people.  I remember feeling that my days had become a chess match and I had to be careful with how I played my moves.  This isn’t the sort of living I like, nor the sort of people I like to share my bubble with.  This was very clear to me.

Finally, Peter Lik.  You might have noticed that I didn’t mention him much.  That was no accident.

When Lik opened a gallery in La Jolla, he viewed my collection of La Jolla work that I had been working on for several years. My photograph of Windansea is another photograph that inspired his shooting the same location.

In Closing

It’s so bizarre for me to look back on all this and realize that Peter Lik’s work had an influence early on my photographic journey.  With that path becoming so objectionable, it’s not been something I’ve reveled in.  Yet, this period of time did teach me a lot both professionally and personally.  I learned the how-to’s and how-not-to’s to opening and running a gallery honorably, forming a sales strategy ethically, managing a staff respectably, among many other things.  I suppose I would not have learned much of what I did if it had all been peaches.  And, I suppose looking back on it all, I’m thankful it was a “landscape photographer” that came to town and influenced my path over another – my love and passion for my path, and my work, has been unscathed and burns bright.  There isn’t a day that passes that I’m not terribly thankful to be doing what I am doing, to earn the collectors that I have, and to be doing it my way, as respectably as I can.

 

* Value for the product:  I have no problem with artwork selling for high costs.  In fact, I am very happy and excited to see that photography has finally been accepted into the art world and we now see photographs fetching high amounts of money.  These are photographs proving to be very valuable.  2 of the 5 most expensive photographs ever sold were by Andreas Gursky, a living artist.  Last year, his Rhein II photograph sold in auction at Christie’s for 4.3 million making it the most expensive photograph ever sold.  It was an edition of 6.  Gursky’s 99 Cent II Diptychon, a two-part photograph, fetched 3.34 million a couple years earlier in a Sotheby’s auction.  It was an edition of 6.  Cindy Sherman, a living artist, is also on the Top 5 Most Expensive List for her Untitled #96, which sold at auction at Christie’s for 3.89 million.  It was an edition of 10.  I could continue to list photographs of value and there are going to be a couple common threads throughout the list – have you noticed what they might be?  They are sold in auction – not by the actual party.  They are small editions.  Scarcity fuels real value and the auction house brings a certain legitimacy to the sale.

(More thoughts added on this HERE)

26 thoughts on “MY PETER LIK STORY

  1. Pingback: Do not buy a Peter Lik landscape photograph as an investment - Curious Bits n Bobs

  2. Just a few comments regarding Peter Lik galleries. I never heard of Mr Lik until a few years ago when I heard his name come up on of all places, The Pawn Stars. I took a trip to Vegas to have a look at his work. I was and remain very impressed by the quality of the prints and Mr Liks eye for natural beauty. As a photographer I could only dream to produce such work.
    I have never met Mr Lik and I assume he is a pretty good guy who has worked very hard to achieve such success.
    However, I could not understand the ultra-high prices and what I can only discribe as the silly, overbearing sales staff. Used car salesmen at best. It was nearly impossible to view the fine images without these salesmen and women giving me a most lame explaination of the print process etc…
    I guess I do lean towards the quiet approach for most things. I suppose that is one reason I am such a huge fan of the late great Eliot Porter. And maybe that is why I did grow a bit weary of the saturated colors of the Peter Lik images. But to be fair, that is the new norm for so many photographers these days. pretty much every gallery looks the same. Just a different photographer.
    Well what can you say. Mr Lik makes great images and sells them for a pot of gold. People can do better research before they buy. I wish Mr Lik well and continued sucess. And success to Scott as well.

    • Thanks for the input William. I am a big fan of Eliot Porter! There are many quotes (in addition to photographs, obviously) that stand out to me, such as: “But before all else a work of art is the creation of love. Love for the subject first and for the medium second. Love is the fundamental necessity underlying the need to create, underlying the emotion that gives it form, and from which grows the unfinished product that is presented to the world. Love is the general criterion by which the rare photograph is judged. It must contain it to be not less than the best of which the photographer is capable.” I think love needs to be brought to the presenting and selling of the work too! But obviously, not everyone agrees on this. C’est la vie.

  3. Scott. Very nice piece…….I’m an expressionist artist still trying to figure things out in the world. This blog has been very informative and i commend you on your approach and style of words. Peter Lik has had a tremendous impact on me and my journey in the art world. I stumbled upon a Peter Lik gallery while exhibiting my work in Palm Springs, Ca about 3 years ago…….I was truly amazed and inspired by his work; so much so that it changed the way i present my artwork. I don’t know Peter Lik personally, but his popularity and his climb to fame must give some creedence to his personhood, as no man can attain that much success without raw talent.

    Someone commented on an earlier post that there is a difference between talent and popularity. Aside from Paris Hilton, I can’t think of anyone popular who doesn’t have talent.

  4. Scott – thank you for the refreshingly honest portrait of your Peter Lik experience – I enjoyed reading it. At least to the shooting colleagues I’ve talked to, there is universal consensus that Peter Lik is a very capable photographer who has produced some excellent work throughout his career. While no reflection on his ability or vision at the time of capture, he does enjoy an unprecedented level of location access and scouting support that is only exceeded by the likes of “National Geographic.”

    We can all name many other pros (and semi-pros for that matter) who we’d consider “by our own standards” to be equally, if not more talented (although maybe they haven’t achieved nearly the same level of recognition and commercial success). Of course for many, success is a subjective thing and can be as simple as achieving personal artistic fulfillment. Regardless, I think it’s fair to say that there is a big difference between talent and popularity – and Mr. Lik hovers somewhere in the gray area in between the two.

    Talent aside, one thing Peter Lik is extraordinarily good at is marketing his own personal brand. From the sophisticated format of his galleries (and the slick sales strategies his art consultants employ to increase sell through), to his overt messaging that emphasizes all the celebrities that own his art – it is clear that he understands how to parlay perceived value into increased product demand, and ultimately higher revenue.

    I can only admire him for his sharp business acumen – although that doesn’t mean that I think he’s the best landscape photographer out there by any stretch, nor do I have to agree philosophically or ethically with his tactics. If consumers are drinking the hype Kool-Aid and are willing to pay his bloated prices (so long as he’s not being deceitful) – that’s more a reflection on their naivety as far as I’m concerned. For better or worse, this is what the free market system is all about – even if we as photographic artists, endeavor to hold ourselves to a higher standard; one that is predicated on modesty and an unflinching passion for the craft above all other pursuits, monetary or otherwise.

    So why then is there so much vitriol in the photographic community against Peter Lik? I think part of it can be explained by a passage from Herrigel’s classic book “Zen in the Art of Archery” when he insightfully wrote: “And once one finds success, one has to be careful not to get stuck in the achievement, which is confirmed with success and magnified with renown. In other words, behaving as if the artistic existence were a form of life that bore witness to its own vitality.

    • Very nicely said. Though, I’m curious…you state, “so long as he’s not being deceitful”. How do these feelings change for you, if at all, if you were to know he were being deceitful?

      • That’s a great question Scott and maybe not so easy to answer. I’ve seen breathtaking photographs that couldn’t sell for $299, and others that look like they were taken by my kids selling for $2,500 or more. Yes, one man’s trash is indeed another’s treasure – and trying to place a dollar figure on art (or perceived value for that matter) is an extremely tough thing to both qualify and quantify. I often find it ironic that the very thing we should value (the artistic merits of said photography) often seem to take a back seat over the materialistic aspects, such as the venue where the art is selling or the bloated resume of the seller.

        In its most basic sense, Lik is providing a printed photograph – and one that is arguably of high quality. Whether or not it is worth the amount he is charging ultimately depends on how much buyers are willing to pay – and clearly they are willing to cough up more dough for photographs that bear his name. Trying to understand the psychology behind purchase behavior (as it relates to brand perception) is even more elusive – as consumers are motivated by different things (and come from different financial backgrounds). Some will inevitably purchase for investment reasons; some will purchase for the prestige (or illusion of prestige) that comes from owning a Lik print; and others may in fact be drawn to his art.

        Where I think Lik is somewhat skirting the gray area is in his sales tactics – which seek to create a false sense of scarcity in his limited edition prints. One could argue that he’s artificially inflating prices and true investment value by misrepresenting supply. Not limited to just art, artificial inflation of perceived value through hype and distortion of product benefits can be found in just about every industry. It’s a shame really, as behind Peter Lik’s “treat art as a commodity” used car salesman approach is a photographer, who in my estimation, is not altogether without talent.

        Me personally, I would never purchase a Lik print because it’s just not my thing. I’d much rather put my hard-earned money into a master print from someone like Charles Cramer (or the likes of Wolfe, Brandenburg, Lanting, Neill, Munich, Burkett, Butcher, etc.). I scoff at the idea of shelling out a million dollars for a 1/1 Autumn water reflection print that could have just as easily come from one of my pro shooting colleagues (at a fraction of the cost) – but I guess there are people out there who think otherwise. And these are exactly the customers Lik is looking for. Or to coin a phrase from P.T. Barnum, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

  5. Really enjoyed your blog on Peter Lik and your experiences there. Sounds like you’ve been having an amazing journey so far!
    My first exposure was in Lahaina, my wife and I go there once or twice a year (we live in Texas) and it is my home away from home. But that’s where I first experienced Peter Lik. I’ve never been much for photography as art, and we do support a local Maui artist Anna Good, but his work caught my eye.
    Then recently at a business conference in Las Vegas saw his Tree of Dreams piece and fell in love with it. The sales person…not so much. Even though the price of $6000 didn’t scare me off, the approach he took did and it left me feeling as if I was about to be taken.
    I certainly don’t appreciate paying too much for a piece of art but value, as with art, is in the eye of the beholder. I’m still thinking about that piece and may make the purchase sometime soon.
    BTW, the thing I appreciate is that, being an impressionist fan, that piece, even with the detail of photography, leaves the image of an impressionist style and I enjoy that.
    Thanks again for sharing.

    Lloyd

    • Hi Lloyd. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I meet a good number of people who have purchased, or at least have been exposed to Lik’s work. It’s always shocking, and disappointing, how many of them say something along the lines as, “I purchased Genesis. Now it’s worth $35,000.” I recently was compelled to say “No, it’s not” and to have the ensuing conversation, which I think ultimately was good and the guy was appreciative to hear the reality of it. Lik’s company sells the work as “investment” art, which is absurd. To pay $6000 for a large piece because you love it – I see no problem in that, and I don’t think that price is extraordinary. To pay $6000 for a piece today, when you aren’t really totally committed and ready, because the salesperson is telling you, “it’s going to be $30,000 in 3 months like this one over here so you better hurry and do it now…plus, it’s an investment and will be worth so much more, so get it now”, is not cool. You’ve got all these Lik collectors thinking they have valuable pieces and the reality is that they have all been duped and there pieces are worth the entry price-point, at best. My biggest problem with Lik and the way he handles his business, is Lik takes advantage of the people he should be most grateful and appreciative towards, you the collector.

      BTW, LOVE Anna Good! She’s a very sweet and authentic person.

      • Perfectly summed up Scott…”…take advantage of the people…”. I just came back from Vegas and loved his work, but at $7000 a pop it is crazy. As you say, I have no issue in paying that for art, but the approach the sales people takes just pissed me off from the start. They try to underestimate my intelligence and if you sit back and think it all through afterwards, almost second hand car salesman like. I am a strong business man and no issue in walking away from a deal if I do not see any value, but the sad thing is that there are people with more common sense than money or no money at all and fall for these sales pitched. But, if you going to just walk in and fall for the sales pitch and spend thousands of $ on anything (not just art) without doing weeks and weeks of research and knowing the market and product, then I guess I do not fell sorry….
        I had 3 friends that went separately to the gallery and was very interested and we all had the cash to buy it there and then, but the aggressive nature and sales talk pushed all of them away….and the price! You are 1 out of 950 pieces, that is not a collectors item, that is mass printing…almost like the Fed printing money these days, the more $ there are on the street the less yours is valued…simple Economy 101.
        I still respect Peter and his art, but will never recommend anyone from buying one. With the World economy slowing down the affluent buyers will become more selective and dry up with sales people like this….time will tell, but in 1-3 years from today these galleries will be closing one by one…..mark my words….

  6. Last year, while in the Las Vegas area for a photography workshop, I visited Peter Lik’s gallery. When I first walked in I was blown away by the images. However, after about 20 minutes, the over saturated way the images were printed just started to grate. It was just too much. I left soon thereafter, as the images as presented had become cartoon characters of themselves. What passes for “art” in Vegas needs to stay in Vegas.

  7. Thanks for a great post…though I love Lik’s work, it isn’t unique by any measure and people like QT and others can certainly equal it, in my opinion.

    It’s a shame that Lik decided for automation over craftsmanship. I don’t have the benefit of comparing Ilfochrome vs. Supergloss, but I trust your eye and comments of such. For the amount of money being charged, the process and paper stock should be a consideration as well as the eye and talent of the photographer.

    I haven’t seen a Clyde Butcher print up close but I would love to some day – talk about an artisan!

    Well, continued good luck with your photography – thanks for sharing.

    • Hey Rob. Thanks for commenting. I like Lik’s work too, but I agree, I could quickly show you 100 photographers works that are as good or better in the same genre. I haven’t yet seen a Clyde Butcher print, but have seen Christopher Burkett’s work a number of times and they are insanely wonderful! In my eyes, he’s the modern-day Ansel Adams. He shoots primarily 8×10″ Fuji Velvia and spends most of the year in the dark room making his traditional Ilfochromes that are godly, for lack of a better description. Nothing explains the experience like viewing them – worth seeking them down if you want to lose yourself in a masterpiece.

      I think the period of automation is where we now are with photography – there’s only a handful of Burkett’s and Butcher’s left. And I think this is fine – plenty of wonderful and stunning photographs on Supergloss, and now inkjets too. I use Supergloss for my prints and am very happy with the results and the prints are very expressive and dynamic.

      “For the amount of money being charged” – it just isn’t justifiable, in my opinion. Limited editions of 1000 prints (!) are never likely to have any secondary market value, and if they do, then it’s the secondary market that will determine that cost/value – not the artist selling the work. It’s not uncommon for an artist to increase the cost of the work as the edition sells out, but generally this is done with small editions (say, 50 or less) – not editions of 1000.

    • I disagree about the “automation over craftsmanship” comment. The craftsmanship is in making the best image for whichever medium the photo will ultimately be presented on. Clyde Butcher is a black and white photographer who still shoots large format film. I’ve seen his work in person. It’s great, but it’s a completely different medium than shooting digital and printing with a digital process. It’s like trying to compare apples with oranges.

      Unless a photographer is shooting large format, there is almost no reason to shoot slide film anymore. Photographers can have much more control over the final output of their image with digital, so how is that lacking in craftsmanship? It’s just different. Back in the film era, people weren’t spending their time on digital workflow. They had a press the shutter, drive to the photo lab and view slides on the lightbox workflow, or go to the darkroom and print b&w workflow. Now it’s a sit in front of the Mac workflow. No matter how you slice it, it is still work and the best photographers have as much craftsmanship now as ever.

      When it comes to quality prints, the problem is not with the process, but with the people making the files for print.

  8. Thanks for sharing your experience! Your blog post was extremely informative.

    But as for the art auction, while the piece may sell for a high price, the money doesn’t go to the artist who originally produced the image. Once again, the artist is left on the outside.

    • Hi Brian. Thanks for the comment. You are right that generally the art sold in auction is not going to the artist, though I do not understand your comment, “Once again, the artist is left on the outside.” I am sure these artists who works sell for millions do very well. As for the value of the artwork, isn’t that for the secondary market to decide?

  9. Scott, thank you for sharing the story. When visiting Lik and a competitor’s galleries, I’ve also noticed the emphasis put by the “art consultant” on investment value. Since I keep very current with the art/gallery/museum world, I was skeptical. Are you saying that prior to the takeover of the gallery by the “different type of person”, there was no such thing in the sales pitch ? Another related detail I am curious about. You are mentioning in sequence “The entire sales strategy shifted. Initially, sales dropped.”, then “Before long, […] the entire dance became about value.”. What was the sales strategy after it shifted, but before it became value-based ?

    • Hi QT Luong. Thanks for the comment. I am familiar with your work and admire it very much.

      Prior to this “shift” in sales, no, I don’t think we really did talk much about value. The artwork was priced fairly, and value wasn’t any sort of emphasis. I have always been told, in Hawaii anyways, that it is illegal to sell artwork as “investment art”, so we never discussed it that way. People purchase, or should purchase this kind of art for one reason – because they love it. That is what we would focus on – the fact that you loved the piece. If this was the case, then it is the art consultants job to help you obtain the art, and to assist in your decision to purchase. The emphasis was more on what piece, what size, what spot in your home – this is what’s important while purchasing this sort of art for your home.

      Regarding the “shift” – with a change of management, things changed and so there was a little drop in sales for a short period, but I didn’t mean to imply there was some in-between phase. It was just a different mindset, and ultimately a totally different approach to selling the art and dealing with the customer, one that didn’t suit me well. I should add – this was approximately 7 years ago…so it’s been awhile.

  10. Hi, Enjoyed your discussion. You indicated that you have told this story so people will know more about you; so that you are more “open.” I choose to believe that something has occurred in your recent past to engender this need to be be more open.

    Frankly, I do not believe YOU have been more open. Simply acknowledging that you worked with Lik for a significant period of time would have been sufficient to be “open”.

    This diatribe is not about you, except perhaps inferentially; it is an attack – the only appropriate word – on Peter Lik – the Man and his Business – your competitor.

    How about telling your followers honestly why you have written this version of The Peter Lik Story instead of The Scott Reither Story.

    For the record while I know of Peter Lik and I have been in the Las Vegas gallery some tears a go, I neither know nor have I ever communicated with Peter Lik.

    • Hi Jay. Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog and to comment.

      Something did indeed happen in my recent past to engender me to be more open – I decided a few months back to begin this blog. To tell you the truth, it’s challenging to open up myself in the form of words because at the end of the day, I am a visual artist and would love to only communicate via my photographs alone. But, it is 2012 and I am feeling like I’m getting a little too far behind in the social media realm, so am therefore making a concerted effort to blog, facebook, tweet, and otherwise put myself out there into the web world more. I do this because I feel that I must, in today’s world. With the form that this blog takes, it requires me to be authentic and open…otherwise, what’s the point.

      If you follow along my blog, then you WILL be reading MY SCOTT REITHER STORY. But, you happened to pop in for one chapter, and that chapter was discussing my time while working for Peter Lik. This was some years ago, but it was a critical 2 year period along my photographic journey, and I think relevant and worthy of telling – to those who may be interested in my path.

      If you feel that this was an attack on Peter Lik, so be it. I actually did my best to not attack him, which is why I cut the story short and edited much of my experiences out. I’m simply expressing some of my personal feelings from that time in this story.

      Thank you for pointing out that you have been in his gallery, yet do not know him.

      I hope that this clears up some of your thoughts regarding this post, and why I chose to write it. Thanks again for taking the time to express yourself.

    • I read this post awhile back and thought, wow… Scott did a very good job explaining the experience that he/we had. Scott was very kind in this post and kept it along the lines of what shaped his early years in the Photography business without bashing to the extent he could have. I worked very closely with Peter Lik and there is no doubt he is “The Man” if you think of the success he has experienced in photography sales as well as taking Landscape Photography to new audiences. He is a pretty funny guy and has drive unlike any other. Lets face it everyone is trying to be somebody in this world and in the process our experiences shape us.

      Lik would cause me to think differently about how I would continue my career and ultimately my perspective on how I measure success. He made me realize that there is very little value in fame, money and success if you don’t have sound morals and a grasp of what is important in life. I try to be vague in my experiences with Lik because in the end it does not really matter what I think. Until a person experiences something first-hand, they are most likely to take negative comments about another as poor taste, or jealousy on the person voicing those opinions.

      Lik is pretty fancy with his muscle poses, famous people who have purchased his work and all the hype. I can see the future and I see coffee cups, little tiny villages that are named after him. I noticed his new website dropped the Peter from Lik.. why is that? I also wonder if him and Lassen are buddies because Lassen used to have the best shots of himself with fancy cars. Because I am an amateur photographer I can attest that it is very important to flex your bicep as hard as you can when shooting to really pump up the shot. Or if you are not as buff as Lik then you can use photoshop but personally I do both.

      Stick to it Scott, you are a great photographer and continue to uphold your values even as you gain more notoriety.

      Jesse

  11. Thanks for sharing your interesting insights. I also worked for a famous photographer, but I think I was lucky. Most people assumed was unapproachable or egotistical, and instead surprised most by being totally approachable, humble, sincere, and giving of time and information. Respect for what you sell and who you represent has to be paramount when you care about the value your customers are receiving. Best of luck with your path and future pursuits.

    • Hi Gary. Thanks for sharing.

      First, wow! Bitchin’ shot of the Lightning over the Sierra Buttes! I don’t have the time to look proper right now, but I will definitely take time to view your work in depth. It looks like you’ve got a lot of incredible images! Well done, man!!

      I see who you must be referring to – yeah, I’d suspect he was a cool dude. I imagine you could have picked up many special nuggets from him, both photographic and otherwise.

      Best of luck to you as well. Pleasure having you visit. Thanks!

  12. Thanks for sharing your story Scott. Sounds like you’ve got clarity on what that chapter in your life provided you. This story and your ethics on doing what felt right for you says a lot about your integrity. Well written as well.