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Friday, 03 April 2009


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He should have taken the money. Apparently his prints normally sell for $450,000, and are still not moving at the sale price of $360,000. Those extra zeros in the price aren't a typo.

Thanks for that Dave,

Coincidentally I am sitting here listening to Joshua Tree. I have a love hate relationship with U2 like many people. I was floored when I first saw a billboard here in Chicago bearing the album cover. It actually made me really happy.

Glad to hear the back story to all of this.

IMO in 50 years Joshua Tree will be the only record they made that really mattered. Some will disagree and that's just fine.

I'd like to leave a short comment relating to the article's sentence:

"... the same "Boden Sea" image (which was actually taken at Lake Constance in Switzerland ..."

It may be interesting to know that Lake Constance is actually called "Bodensee" in German language.
Boden = floor, lower end
See = lake


Not sure I understand sold out. Wasn't steichen a commercial photographer, and irving penn?

Saw an exhibition of his prints at Museum der Moderne in Salzburg in March of 2008. They were huge prints and absolutely beautiful. The only information was the location of the photo.

I certainly did a double-take when I first saw the cover art. Nice to see the story behind the product.

I think the concept of 'selling out' is silly too. Artists have to eat too, the government doesn't support us (and probably shouldn't, cause then they could tell us what to produce), and we can't live on air alone. We need money, and that comes from selling prints and from licensing fees for commercial uses.

wait. what's wrong with selling out?
or to be fair. accepting money for work?
when u2 approaches _me_ to do their next album cover I plan to charge them in a fair and exhorbitant manner.

It makes me really happy to hear about such gentleman's camaraderie still existing. The world is better for it.

Still, why turn down the money that the biggest rock band in the world is willing to throw your way?

Finally, I was fascinated to hear that Bono would interview a photographer about his work and use that conversation as the basis of a song. I also have a love-hate relationship with U2 and while the love aspect of that always dominates the argument in my head, I never assumed Bono's process would look anything like that.

Agreed - "sold out" has largely been retired as a concept by this point. The point of a great photographer/artisit is to make great art - if there is an opportunity for the artist to become financially successful from their work, most fans of an artist do not begrudge this fact anymore, but encourage it. Truthfully, such financial success in the art world is pretty rare so it should be applauded as we all know many times more the occurance of the "poor artist" stereotype. Besides, most artists would pay U2 to have their art on the cover of their album due to the ridiculous exposure it will receive, so it sounds like the photographer may even have gotten the better end of the deal. And yes, Sugimoto's seascape prints are a treasure - if you ever have a chance to view one, they are emotionally stunning.

Now there's a marketing experiment... will the cachet of owning a Sugimoto print increase because of the free use on the U2 album and subsequent wide exposure, thereby resulting in the sale of even a couple of prints? If so, then the free picture was worth it.

However, I think he could have easily gotten $100k for his image AND sold a few more of his prints at the regular price.

Finally... why is taking money for the commercial use of one of your images 'selling out'? Especially if selling one of your prints for $350,000 is NOT considered 'selling out'? I'd bet Ansel Adams would have gladly taken $100k to put 'Moonrise over Hernandez' on an album cover and a few billboards.

There's a lot of pretentiousness and foolishness in the art world.

Bono may like the image and may even have based a song on it, but it is a terrible album cover for U2, since it bears no aesthetic relationship to the music inside. Even worse, it is an absolutely fantastic cover for the Taylor Deupree album that came before... the one that used the exact same photo. You'd think that Sugimoto would have been more sensitive to this. After all, there are hundreds of similar shots he could have licensed. He may not have been blinded by money, but perhaps he was blinded by fame instead?

Read this article in the Guardian.

*Gasp*! Don't tell me U2 are being derivative and not wholly original. Who could have predicted such a shocking thing?



Oh, I think you can sell out all right.



Posted by: Frank Nachtman: "He should have taken the money. Apparently his prints normally sell for $450,000, and are still not moving at the sale price of $360,000. Those extra zeros in the price aren't a typo."

Well, not exactly, Frank. Yes Sugimoto prints have sold for some princely sums but those "extra zeros" really are a typo if you mean the word "normally". Last week's photo auction at Phillips de Pury (http://www.phillipsdepury.com/auctions/online-catalog-results.aspx?sn=NY040109&search=sugimoto) was more representative of Sugimoto sales.

Regarding the title of this article: "Photographer Sugimoto ...", that's really a misnomer. It would be far more accurate, although less interesting to an audience of shutter bugs, to call Hiroshi a "photographic artist" rather than a photographer. There is a canyon of difference between Sugimoto's photographic objectives and those of, say, a commercial photographer.

I think the Hill Bros. coffee can is cool.

And, from reading the story, this was put out during the same timeframe that the Sierra Club was using Adams' photos to gin up awareness of the environment, and for the same reason.

I could see labeling U2 recorded a song praising the iPod as "selling out", just as I see Madonna's overt use of sexuality as selling out (over the reliance on her choreography or musical talent). But every artist who isn't independently wealthy produces art to be sold. If placing an image on a coffee can widens the audience, how is that bad? Why is that selling out?

OK -- I'll ask the obvious question: Why pick a Sugimoto seascape that has a quite distinct line on the horizon for an album entitled "No Line on the Horizon"? There are some from the same series that do not have a distinct break between the sky & the sea -- i.e, in which the two elements of water & air are quite blurred due to atmospheric conditions -- that seem more appropriate, given U2's album title.

As for why Sugimoto didn't ask Bono for money ... , my guess would be that when your prints already sell for $450,000 apiece at Gagosian, well, money isn't really something you're all that concerned about. Sugimoto isn't just some low-brow "photographer," y'know -- he's an annointed Art Star (private jets, Art Basel Miami, that sorta thing).

"We'd sell out, if only we knew how." --Jerry Garcia


" If placing an image on a coffee can widens the audience, how is that bad? Why is that selling out?"

Um, because you're doing it to widen the audience, not for the good of the work or for any motives related to the work?

Note that *I* didn't make that "selling out" comment, The Japan Times writer did.


What is the big deal about the plain boring photo above? Seriously?? Is this for real???

"Why pick a Sugimoto seascape that has a quite distinct line on the horizon for an album entitled "No Line on the Horizon"?"

My understanding is that it isn't "No Line As the Horizon" but is "No Line On the Horizon." The horizon itself is going to be there. In this case, the title refers to the fact that there is nothing visible along it. An open canvas expanding before you etc etc.

I think some here don't quite get what is meant by "selling out". Using your art for commercial gain is not selling out. Selling out is when you compromise your personal beliefs and principles in return for cash.

So for example, selling to the military is not "selling out" but selling to the military whilst taking an anti-war stance is. In such a case you would be selling your credibility along with the art.

In this case, Sugimoto was thought to have "sold out" due to his usual anti-commercial stance.



From the Japan Times article which sounds more thought out than what you read in the Guardian since in the Guardian's article it is one that just reports the rantings of one man. It mentions U2 had this planned out four years ago making it a deal that happened before the 2006 cover came out. So no copying was involved but they both liked the same image.

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