by Willa Gilbert-Goldstein
Photography as a medium has undergone several seismic shifts throughout the past 150 years, from the Kodak boom, which commercialized the photography industry, to the advent of the first DSLR camera in the late 1980s. The most recent of these shifts –the wide adoption of blockchain technology and the rapid rise of digital art practices– has reshaped the photographic landscape for the better.
What Does Web3 Technology Mean for Photographers?
The internet is highly saturated with digital imagery and for almost all of the jpegs and pngs that exist, the original creator is unable to prove ownership. The rise of NFTs and blockchain tech, however, completely flips this notion on its head, allowing artists, for the first time, to certify the authenticity of their work, receive resale royalty rights, and manage the scarcity and supply of their digital products. In addition to the more well known benefits of NFTs, Web3 tech also presents new creative and narrative opportunities for photographers. The structure of a multi-chapter digital “drop,” for example, allows photographers to rethink the sequencing and reception of their work. The ability to digitally unveil specific photographs in a predetermined order opens the door to novel forms of digital curation that have the potential to infuse fresh meaning and character into traditional photography series.
Successful Web3 Photography Projects
Christies: The Miami Edit
This past week at Miami Art Basel, Christies unveiled a collection of digital works featuring emerging and established artists. Andres Serrano’s iconoclastic “Piss Christ,” which features a figure of Christ floating in the artist’s own urine, is just one of the photographic inclusions in the digital auction. The current bid on the Serrano work is set at 20.0 ETH.
Sotheby’s — Sebastião Salgado: Tree of Life
Acclaimed photographer, Sebastião Salgado, revealed his first ever photographic NFT collection with Sotheby’s this past September. The project, entitled Tree of Life, is a short video film that combines striking photographic stills and audio clips from over 102 indigenous people.
Justin Avarso’s Twin Flame Series
Avarso’s Twin Flame series broke numerous records for the most expensive photography NFT ever sold, at the time of its debut. The project features sets of twins from around the world and serves as an homage to the artist’s own twin brother who passed away. The duplicative nature of the work loosely mimics the structure of other popular NFT PFP drops like Crypto Punks and Bored Ape Yacht Club.
QuirkyVision 45RPM is a series that showcases the legendary work of Meryl Meisler, a prolific photographer who frequented NYC’s most famed discos clubs, Go Go bars, and underground raves. QuirkyVision 45RPM is curated by the digital art curation platform, Quantum Art.
STRONG HAIR is a series of 100 looped portraits that document the diversity and power embedded in different African hairstyles. The series is created by a group of Ethiopian artists known as Yatreda ያጥሬዳ and is aimed at compiling a visual history of self expression. The project is currently sold on the Foundation app.
With auction houses and NFT communities alike pushing to integrate traditional photography into Web3 spaces, we can expect to see an influx of well known artists experimenting with the possibilities that NFTs have to offer.
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