It’s no secret that trying to make a living as a professional photographer is extremely difficult – unless, of course, you are one of the photographers who took one of the world’s most pricey photos.

With a combined value of $17.9 million, here are the most expensive photos in the world:

5. The Pond-Moonlight ($2.9 million)

Photographed by Edward Steichen in 1904, it is a pictorialist photograph depicting a forest with a pond in the foreground, while a rising moon can just about be seen coming up over the horizon. Created by manually applying light-sensitive gums, it is considered to be an early colour photograph before the time of autochrome.

What makes this image so unique, is that each hand-layer of the gums gave the three known versions a different look. In 2006 it was sold for $2.9 million – the highest price for a photograph at auction at the time.


[Image – jAG_bd9HUo0oyw at Google Cultural Institute]

4. 99 Cent II Diptychon ($3.3 million)

Captured in 2001 by famed photographer Andreas Gursky, the somewhat confusing image illustrates the interior of a supermarket, shot across a number of isles. A chromogenic colour print, the original photo was digitally altered to reduce the viewer’s perspective.

There are currently six sets available, with each set consisting of two photographs that measure 2.07 by 3.37 metres. It was sold for its record price of $3.3 million at an auction in 2007.

99_cent_II,_diptychon_-_Photo_courtesy_of_Sotheby's[Image – Intellectual property owned by Andreas Gursky]

3. Dead Troops Talk ($3.6 million)

Shot by Jeff Wall in 1992, the photo’s full title is actually Dead Troops Talk (A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986) the image shows Soviet soldiers talking to each other and playing around after being killed in the Afghan war – which Wall completely set up.

“I liked the idea that, when the picture was finished (which would be in 1991 or 92), the Afghan war would be the furthest thing from ‘news’. So I could play with elements of journalism and history quite freely…,” Wall explained at the time.


[Image – GreyNotGrey]

2. Untitled #96 ($3.8 million)

American visual artist Cindy Sherman photographed the rather simple image in 1981. Featuring a girl laying on her back holding a newspaper clipping, the orange-hued chromogenic colour print measures 61 cm × 120 cm, and was sold for $3.8 million in 2011.


[Image – The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Cindy Sherman]

1. Rhein II ($4.3 million)

The second photograph by Andreas Gursky in the top five, Rhein II takes the top stop as the most expensive photograph ever sold. The landscape image depicts the River Rhine, and as with the previous Gursky image, it has also been altered.

With the Rhine flowing horizontally across the field of view, a dog-walker and a factory building was removed from the original photo. It was sold for its record-setting price in 2011 to an unidentified bidder at an auction.


[Image – Intellectual property owned by Andreas Gursky]
Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.