You and others here had an opportunity to direct the flow of conversation to something educational and pleasant. But you did not. Education comes in all forms and learning on forums is just one way, but it is a way.
I promised myself I wouldn't comment on this topic again, but once more into the breach ...
Steve, you are being slightly disingenuous by expecting everyone to educate you on the merits of Gursky's work. Furthermore, you seem to be expecting a nice, short, easy answer in a photographic forum on contemporary photography. I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but contemporary art photography is complicated and a lot has been written about it and it's practitioners. Some glowing, others not so much. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but at least make it an INFORMED opinion. Simply saying I/my kid/my wife/flickr could do better is not good enough, and in fact rather snide (something you are very fast to accuse everyone else of).
We live in an age where information is abundant and free. Why not TRULY educate yourself as to the meaning and value (or otherwise) of Gursky's work? You're not going to get an answer that pleases you in 500 words or less in an internet forum. Guess what? It will involve a lot of reading, looking and thinking, i.e. hard work.
You want some help getting started? In this particular context, do some research on the Dusseldorf School, Hilla and Bernd Becher, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth, Candida Hofer and Axel Hutte. Google "[artist name] + criticism", or "[artist name] + interview". Walk into any large bookstore and I guarantee you will a find at least one monograph on these artists. Read the essays, look (really LOOK) at their images. Better still, go and view the actual PRINTS if you ever get the chance.
Tell me what you see in this image that makes it worth $100 much less 4.3m? Aside from the artists background and reputation.
Now who's being snide? You do
understand that Gursky's "background and reputation" is a result of technical ability and many years of hard work? Born into a photographic family, educated under some of the premier artists of the 20th century (including the Bechers and Gerhard Richter), peer of other lauded photographers like Struth, Ruff and Hofer. You can be sure that not all the graduates of the Dusseldorf School "made it" as photographers and artists, so why does everyone only talk about the same half dozen people over and over again? Why are their works consistently so expensive on the secondary art market? Fad? Hype? Quality? Hard work? Technical excellence? Intelligence? Critical rigour? A little bit of all of the above?
Some on this forum have tried to point out why this work is interesting, but all you can come back with is that someone else could have done it. Do you even know how the image was created? How many times Gursky had to go back to the location before he got what he wanted? What format it was shot on? The post-production and retouching involved? The preconception and intentionality involved in creating the image? This is all easily found out with a simple Google search – if you were really, truly interested then you would have discovered all this already.
You have already made up your mind that the image is worthless (to you), and that anyone else could do better or the same (according to you). Fair enough. But it's not the prerogative of anyone on this forum to change your mind. Like I said, if you were truly interested you would have taken the initiative and done some real research of your own. BTW, in this context I don't think looking on flickr counts as research.
As to the price, the art market (especially the secondary market) is just that: a market. Price is dictated by the highest bidder and their willingness to pay an amount higher than anyone else for the privilege of owning a particular work. Expecting there to be some kind of rational, codified formula for what someone will pay is simply misguided, foolish and a little naive.
P.S. Gursky works hard and is no technical slouch. Have you seen his North Korean images? It took an enormous amount of negotiation and pre-planning to gain access to the event and his final vantage point. Not only that, each image is a blend of multiple exposures and focus stacks – on LF film! Some shots from his other series involve blended exposures with two LF cameras shooting simultaneously with different focal lengths (normal and slightly wide). His older work is shot using 5x7 but I have seen recent images of him working with a P1 back and an ALPA.
For the record, I am not a Gursky fanboy. I like some of his images, but not all. I have gone out of my way to educate myself on why the art and photographic worlds consider him and the Dusseldorf School so important. The information is out there and (mostly) free, so I suggest you do the same.