Why Was This Simplistic Potato Portrait Valued In A Fortune?

´Generally, the life of a harvested potato is violent and taken for granted. I use the potato as a proxy for the ontological study of the human experience´

When famous Irish photographer Kevin Abosch, who rubs shoulders with the highest executives of Silicon Valley, took a black backdrop photograph of a regular potato, he probably didn’t imagine an admirer of his would pay the ridiculous amount of 1 million euros for it. The photograph is of high-quality resolution, measures 162 x162 centimeters, and it shows a potato with dirt and a few roots still attached to its body. What made this photograph become the 15th most expensive one in the world was not the message it tried to transmit, nor the concept or technique behind it, but rather the photographer who took it.

Kevin Abosch self-portrait

It is said that, in order to sell, we must hold our work at a very high standard. I would argue that Abosch holds his at the highest one. We could all learn a few “how to sell yourself” tips from the man who makes a fortune in just minutes. What I mean with this is that Arbosh’s work consists of taking really fast portraits of famous celebrities and Silicon Valley’s executives. He takes out his camera, and after two clicks, he's done. His pricey photographs cost the richest men and women between $150,000 to $500,000 USD, particularly for commercial use. He has photographed Malala Yousafzai, Yoko Ono, and Johnny Depp (the photograph that launched his career).

Malala Yousafzai, Yoko Ono, and Johnny Depp. Photos by Kevin Abosch

Thus, when a collector of his work, who had purchased previous photographs by him, walked into his home in Paris and saw the photogenic potato hanging from the wall, he asked for a prize. Arbosh's response was quick and easy: “1 million euros.” The admirer was unfazed and didn’t bother to negotiate; after a few drinks over dinner, he agreed to purchase it. Unfortunately, we will probably never know whether that digit just came out of the now-richer-than-before photographer, or if he really thought his conceptual photograph, titled “Potato #345,” was worth a fortune. What we do know, based on his other works and exhibitions, is that Arbosh enjoys capturing the simplicity of normal and everyday objects with backgrounds that highlight the subjects. He finds the attention to detail on a single, isolated object to be his unique style. Other photographs of his feature a glass of milk, a pill container, and a rock.

Other photos by Kevin Abosch

On his website, Abosch shares techniques where he experiments with contrasts of colors, textures, and light. One of Abosch’s collections, called "Explosion," features images of paint explosions that dissolve in water or spread throughout the frame. The potato photo that is now his most expensive work, is not the only food photo he has taken. By the number specified in the photograph's title, “Potato #345,” we could assume that he has photographed many other potatoes before. According to him, his fascination for vegetables comes from their resemblance to humans: "I see commonalities between humans and potatoes that speak to our relationship as individuals within a collective species."

It doesn’t come as a surprise that experts and art lovers would pay really high amounts of money for a photograph like this. After all these images are considered artworks. The most expensive photograph confirmed to be sold in history was “Rhein II” by Andreas Gursky, and it was auctioned for $4.3 million USD. The historic photo displays simply a running river and grass: a similar concept to Abosch's work. Now, if you have trouble believing this concept is worth the attention of experts, know that Marcel Duchamp's most praised artwork was just a urinal. This tell us that there is more beyond what we perceive with the eyes, and that there are no standards (or a price limit) for works of art.


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