“Photography helps people to see,” the modern photographer Berenice Abbott once said. Since the technology became available in 1839, photography has become an essential artistic medium, empowering artists to capture fleeting moments on the streets, construct fictional worlds to puzzle audiences, and render new forms of abstraction. Compared to painting and sculpture, photography can offer a more accessible price point for collectors—though iconic works reach high sums at auction. The most expensive photographs ever sold include Andreas Gursky’s Rhein II (1999) at $4.3 million, Cindy Sherman’s Untitled #96 (1981) at $3.9 million, and Jeff Wall’s Dead Troops Talk (1992) at $3.7 million.

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This is based on the artwork’s average dimension.