The Peter Lik Phenomenon

Learn how Peter Lik's photography prints are made for his galleries, and how you can own equally breathtaking fine art photography without breaking the bank.

Collage of an orange Japanese maple tree photo, beside a mockup of the same photo mounted in a frame on the wall of a living room.
'Dreamweaver', Butchart Gardens, British Columbia. Limited Edition of 150. ©Dean McLeod Photography

Peter Lik is an Australian landscape photographer well known for his oversized, colourful, and vibrant style of prints seen in his numerous galleries across the United States. I am also a professional landscape photographer, and find that I am often discovered by customers who search the internet with queries like 'artists similar to Peter Lik'.

I am commonly asked if my work is similar to the 'Peter Lik style prints', a catchphrase seemingly invented and popularized by art buyers who are unsure how to describe this popular photographic medium.

This 'Peter Lik style art' they refer to is actually called acrylic face mounting, which was invented in 1969 by Swiss chemist Heinz Sovilla-Brulhart, who subsequently lodged patents in 1972 after perfecting his new method of photographic presentation.

When accent lighting is applied to the front of an acrylic print, they appear to glow and almost appear 'backlit' from behind with amazing saturation, vibrancy, and detail. When printed large, these beautiful prints become head-turning showpieces and have the power to transform a room.

Panoramic photograph of a curving strip of orange lava flowing over cooled lava rock.
'Middle Earth' Panorama, East Rift Zone, Hawaii. Limited Edition of 150. © Dean McLeod Photography
A framed panoramic photograph of lava hangs on the wall of a dimly lit living room with a brown leather sofa and two white chairs.
'Middle Earth Panorama', Lumachrome® TruLife® acrylic print framed with a custom Italian Roma® Ramino satin black 'stacked' wood frame with black linen liner.

I print acrylic face mounts regularly because I understand the unique benefits of the medium, and want my work to look its best with world class quality for my customers. So why is this common printing style so often attributed and credited only to Australian photographer Peter Lik?

This is a question that is easily answered with some background. Because the fascination surrounding the beauty of acrylic prints is so strong, I feel it may be helpful to provide some information on this print style, some background on the artist Peter Lik, and my opinion on why so many people seem to connect this medium to his name.

Peter Lik The Photographer

Peter Lik first visited the United States in 1984 and was introduced to the large-format film medium while exploring in Alaska. He returned home to Australia for a few years and worked for the Queensland Tourist and Travel Corporation, honing his approach to photography into the panoramic style for which he is widely known today.

He mainly uses a Linhof 617 Technorama camera with Fuji film, as well as Phase One and Nikon digital cameras. In 1989, he returned to the U.S. and traveled across the country in an attempt to shoot beautiful landscapes in all 50 states. He later compiled many of those photographs into a book titled Spirit of America in 2003.

A welcome to fabulous Las Vegas sign in the foreground and the nighttime lights and cityscape of Las Vegas in the background.
Peter Lik owns four galleries in Las Vegas alone to cater to the huge volume of tourists each year.

In the mid-1990s, he moved to Las Vegas and opened a facility to print and frame his work, as well as publish coffee table books, postcards, and calendars. Lik opened his first gallery in Cairns, Australia in 1997, and his first U.S. gallery in Lahaina, Hawaii in 2003.

Below I have listed some of his most successful photographs as seen on his website.

  • 'Tree of Life', a Japanese maple in autumn color from the Portland Japanese Garden.

  • 'First Flight', an airplane in a hangar.

  • 'One', an abstract reflection of trees in a river. (A single print sold to an anonymous buyer in 2010 for $1 million.)

  • 'Inner Peace', that same Japanese maple tree as 'Tree of Life', but with green leaves (winning a Windland Smith Rice award and featured in a nature photography exhibition at the Smithsonian from April thru September in 2012.)

  • 'Ghost', a beam of light shining through sand dust in Antelope Canyon (winning a Windland Smith Rice award and featured in a nature photography exhibition at the Smithsonian in May, 2011.)

  • 'Phantom', the image 'Ghost', converted to black and white, printed once and sold to another 'anonymous buyer' for $6.5 million in 2014. Lik claims it was the world's most expensive photograph at the time, which has since been eclipsed.

Peter Lik Galleries

Over the last couple of decades, he has expanded his brand mainly through a number of galleries where his prints can be seen and purchased. Here they are, in alphabetical order.

1) Lik Fine Art Aspen in Colorado.

2) Lik Fine Art Australia, Queensland.

3) Lik Fine Art Caesars, The Forum Shops at Caesars, Las Vegas

    4) Lik Fine Art Forum, The Forum Shops at Caesars, Las Vegas

    5) Lik Fine Art Key West, Florida

    6) Lik Fine Art Lahaina, Hawaii *Update* This gallery was lost in the 2023 Maui wildfires.

    7) Lik Fine Art La Jolla, California

    8) Lik Fine Art Mandalay, The Shoppes at Mandalay, Las Vegas

    9) Lik Fine Art Miami, Florida

    10) Lik Fine Art SoHo, New York, New York

    11) Lik Fine Art Venetian, The Grand Canal Shoppes, Las Vegas

    The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported over 42.5 million visitors to the city in 2019, and during the first pandemic year of 2020, still received over 19 million. In 2021, it rebounded back to 32 million, 2022 saw 38.8 million, and the official count for 2023 is up to 40.8 million; close to pre-pandemic levels.

    High panoramic view of the Las Vegas strip lit up at night.
    Many tourists get caught up in the glamour of Las Vegas and its art scene, leading them to believe that the amazing acrylic prints they see are somehow restricted to the many galleries around the city. This is simply not true.

    Hypothetically, even if only one of every hundred tourists visited one of Lik's four Las Vegas gallery locations in 2023, that is over 408,000 people with an average volume of over 1,100 customers in his galleries every single day. And that number is undoubtedly much higher, as that is Las Vegas alone, and he owns six other galleries in the United States, and one in Australia.

    It is mainly through the countless tourists flowing through his beautiful high-end galleries that he has grown a strong brand that people recognize, which in turn leads many to believe that he is the originator of the oversized acrylic face mount landscape print.

    This is simply not true, although it is fair to say he can be credited with helping to promote the medium.

    Have You Seen An Acrylic Print?

    Recently I spoke to a friend who had seen some Peter Lik prints and as he enthusiastically described them to me, it was clear that he was fascinated by the glossy, vibrant artworks.

    It occurred to me that although my friend knows that I am a landscape photographer, he had never seen my own fine art prints in person, which are similar in that I also offer them in very large gallery sizes printed as acrylic face mounts.

    His story is familiar and one of many that I have heard in regard to someone's first impression after visiting one of Lik's galleries. People are fascinated by the sheer size, bold colors and museum quality presentation of his prints.

    Crescent Falls double waterfall in Alberta, Canada at night with a full moon.
    'Crescent Falls', Bighorn River, Alberta. Limited Edition of 150. ©Dean McLeod Photography
    A large photographic print of Crescent Falls hangs on the wall over a leather bench in a museum style room.
    'Crescent Falls' Charity Edition Lumachrome® TruLife® acrylic print with a custom Roma® frame and black linen liner combination.

    There also seems to be a subset of landscape photography art buyers that have labeled all acrylic prints in general as 'Peter Lik style photography', and seem to be under the notion that he is the only photographer that produces or sells their work this way.

    It actually makes sense that some buyers may be under this false impression. Considering Lik's broad exposure since the early 2000's, he has built his brand through the presence of galleries visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. Therefore, many people recognize his name and have seen his work in person.

    So although it may be that the Peter was one of the early photographers to help popularize the large, vibrant prints that seem to have become synonymous with his name, in reality he is only one of many artists producing their work in the acrylic face mount print style.

    Have You Visited A Lik Gallery?

    Like many who have walked into a Lik gallery for the first time, you were probably awed and inspired by the beauty, saturated colors, and sheer size of the prints for sale on the walls. It is hard not to be impressed, as most people are seeing large format acrylic prints for the very first time.

    The glossy photos seem to pop off the walls and almost appear backlit like a high definition television screen.

    Interior of an art gallery with many large landscape photographs hanging on the walls.
    The gallery above shows my own work and illustrates how acrylic prints will appear 'backlit' with quality lighting. This effect is purely a result of the print medium itself, not the artist, and can be duplicated in your own home.

    After such an experience, many people return home and begin to search online wondering if there are other photographers that offer large format fine art nature prints with a similar 'look' that they refer to as the 'Peter Lik style'.

    And the answer is yes, there are many other artists, including myself, that offer their work printed in this beautiful medium.

    What Are Acrylic Face Mount Prints?

    We have established that Peter's prints are made with a common printing method called acrylic face mounting. So, what exactly is an acrylic print?

    In its simplest form, acrylic 'face mounting' is a process that first involves printing the image on a sheet of quality photographic paper. Next, after a special adhesive is applied directly to the face of the photograph, a clear sheet of acrylic 'glass' is placed over the photo, permanently laminating them together.

    Lastly, a stiff and smooth backing material is applied to the back of the print with adhesive to protect it and provide rigidity.

    An expanded closeup corner detail view of an acrylic face mount photography print illustrating each layer in its construction.
    Standard acrylic face-mount prints feature a paper print sandwiched between acrylic and a backer material.

    As you can see, the face mount print style is relatively straightforward. It consists of a sheet of acrylic, a photograph, and a backer material.

    And to be clear, acrylic is not glass- it is a high-quality, optically clear plastic. Many in the industry simply use the two terms interchangeably.

    Why Do They Look So Beautiful?

    The acrylic face mount print style is by far the best medium for presenting photographs, and for good reason.

    Many of the higher quality photo papers manufactured today are somewhat reflective and reactive to light. This means that when you apply accent lighting to the front of the print, it almost appears to glow.

    Diagram illustrating how accent lighting will bounce and refract within the acrylic of an acrylic face mounted photograph.
    This diagram illustrates how accent lighting will reflect from the photographic surface, then 'bounce' within the acrylic.

    The acrylic over the photo has some thickness to it, usually at least 1/8th of an inch. When your print is lit up, the accent light refracts or 'bounces' within the acrylic, causing a unique effect that appears to illuminate the image from within.

    This captivating effect is unique to the acrylic face mount style and is the reason they look so bright and vibrant, full of rich detail with amazing depth that can almost appear three-dimensional or holographic.

    Infographic illustrating how the accent light from a ceiling light fixture is aimed at artwork on a wall to illuminate it.
    There is no lighting behind acrylic prints. The glowing effect is from refraction of light within the acrylic when lit from the front side.

    There are many different types of photo papers and grades of acrylic available, so every face mount print is not made with the same materials, although the 'backlit' effect is usually very similar.

    I invite you to read about the special acrylic face mount prints that I offer my customers in this article, The Magic of Lumachrome®.

    In Summary

    I am proud to include world-class fine art acrylic face mount prints in my line of products, along with full access to all of the exquisite framing options that are often seen in galleries. But because galleries are expensive to maintain, my business model includes working from my home office instead and passing the savings on to my customers, which is the upside.

    The downside is that I do not receive nearly the traffic or exposure as an artist with a gallery, so I must work extra hard to be found by collectors online. But I am content with that, because I prefer working one on one with my customers for an unmatched personal experience and exceptional value.

    I collaborate directly with award-winning printers chosen for their mastery of the craft, producing art pieces that are museum quality, fully archival, and engineered to last a lifetime.

    A large framed photograph of a waterfall with three mountain peaks at sunrise hangs in the kitchen of a contemporary home.
    'Three Sisters', Lumachrome® TruLife® acrylic print framed with a Roma® Tabacchino Dark Ash rustic Italian wood frame and black linen liner. © Dean McLeod Photography

    People have different reasons for investing in photographic art. Some may pay a premium because they want to own a piece from a popular artist, some may just want some pretty wall art, while others make a purchase in hopes that its value will increase over time.

    Whatever the reason, the most important factor is to buy art that speaks to you, and is made with quality. Find a piece that you love and will be proud to hang in your home, no matter the artist. Beautiful landscape photographs are a perfect addition to any home or office interior, with the power to transform the atmosphere in any room.

    And remember that a breathtaking print in a physical gallery is often of no higher quality than a print from a conscientious, less famous photographer who strives for perfection of their craft.

    Invest in what you love. Invest with your eyes.

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    Dean McLeod Photography Timeless Fine Art stands independently and declares no affiliation, sponsorship or partnership with any registered trademarks. Any product names, logos, brands or other trademarks featured or referred to within the Dean McLeod Photography website and associated social media forums are the property of their respective trademark holders. These trademark holders do not sponsor or endorse Dean McLeod Photography or any of its products or comments.

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