Peter Lik is a photographer’s photographer. I’ve been in his galleries in Lahaina, in Honolulu, and in Las Vegas and I love them. He has other galleries and a list of them is on his website. According to his bio he is an Australian who, like me, was given a brownie camera at a young age. But unlike me, he was immediately seized with a desire to take pictures which developed into an amazing and successful career.
He sells his photographs to the public through a chain of galleries in high end districts across the world and on his website. This is a hard thing to do as any of you who have tried it will know. Over a few dollars for a print you run into “yeah, but it’s only a photograph” mantra. Peter has been able to break through that attitude and command very respectable prices for his work. He has done this with good quality, good technique, and immense attention to detail.
If you read what he has to say about past projects and planned ones in the future, this is a man who travels to take pictures, lots of pictures, and plans ahead. I am beginning to realize as I read different photographers’ websites, that the planning ahead is a distinguishing feature of the professional.
I love to wander in his galleries and enjoy the images .These spaces are large and well laid out. The one is Las Vegas, for instance, is dark with very deep colors on the walls. His images are “in your face” big and they are illuminated so as to make them seemingly jump off the wall. And considering the size, the sharpness and detail is impressive. He must use large format cameras and panoramic techniques to stitch together immense expanses. Standing before his images one feels a compelling desire to fall into the picture and become a part of it.
This is not to say I am not critical. One thing that he does in his galleries that I don’t care for is the finish on the prints. The pictures seem to have a plastic treatment, a lamination over them, that to my eye makes them look too modern. That may simply be age speaking but I much prefer the textured surfaces of canvas or watercolor paper and generally shy away from glossy finishes generally.
He also manipulates his colors a little too much for my taste. This is not true for all images but he does have a heavy hand on the saturation slider. This does add an impact to the images, especially in low light situations, but it is an effect I don’t care for. The line between enough and too much is very fine and, I must admit, very subjective. Hey, he sells prints for a lot of money. I don’t. So who are you going to listen to?!
On the positive side, he has an eye for an image. You can see in his work that he enjoys light and its effects on a landscape. Peter seems especially adept at finding the right light and then emphasizing it in post processing. He can see patterns and compositions and his images are very satisfying to the eye.
Peter’s website has a wealth of information and is worth spending more than a few hours studying his images and analyzing how he approaches his photography. As well as providing the biography of himself he has provided galleries of his images to study. He also has a section on framing where you can look at the different types of framing he has come up with allowing you to see its effect on the image. I think many times we overlook the importance of the framing and we should not underestimate it. It frequently will determine whether an image is judged to be exceptional or simply adequate.
A feature of his website I have not seen anywhere else is a series of pictures showing his work hanging in actual homes. This is very effective for showing how his work would look in an everyday setting. It is really quite exciting to look at these examples and muse about how you might display your own photography.
There is even a collection of short videos in which Peter talks to you directly, explains what he is doing, and lets you see the types of equipment he uses. These are not really instructional videos but they do give you an impression of the man and how he works. His excitement with and enjoyment of photography is very obvious.
I urge anyone who comes across a Peter Lik gallery not to miss the opportunity to spend time there absorbing the wonderful pictures on display. Failing that, if you love photography spend time on his website. He has shared enough with us there that we can learn a great deal.
All of us can be at the right place at the right time with our camera and take a spectacular image. We can all be exceptionally lucky and take two spectacular images. But when you see a man take image after image after image of truly outstanding quality you know you are dealing with a real photographer. Have a look at Peter Lik.
(Note: All of the images in this post are from Peter’s website and his copyright should be respected. If you like his images, go to his website, or, better yet, go to one of his galleries.)