Your Guide to Photography in the Metaverse
Welcome to PhotoVerso!
As we begin 2022, we are witnessing the dawn of a renaissance for photography on the blockchain. Over the past few months we’ve seen astonishing growth in the excitement, culture, market, and infrastructure for NFT photography.
There surely will be much more to come, and we’re here to tell you all about it.
We hope to be your go-to resource to stay up-to-date on a rapidly expanding world of NFT photography. Each Saturday, we’ll share news about notable drops, curated photo platforms, and photo-related DAO activities. We’ll opine on issues related to collecting as well as selling NFT photography. And each week we will spotlight one under-the-radar photographer that we think is worth your attention.
Let’s get going.
Drops of the Week
Magnum photographer Gregory Halpern released his genesis project, ZZYZX, through the newly formed Fellowship Studio (more on it below). The photographs explore the culture and contradictions of Los Angeles, and uses a surrealistic gaze to convey both hope and despair of the city and its residents. In IRL photoland, the work is very well known, and the publication of the project in 2016 was awarded the Aperture-Paris Photo Photobook of the Year award, an incredibly high-distinction.
The collection is available on OpenSea as a 7-day auction with a reserve price of 1 ETH.
Laurent Chevaleir’s project, Enough, is a collection of street photographs presented as a story of Blackness, and explores “themes of patriotism, power, family and spirit”. The photographer’s black-and-white street photography was shot over the course of 5 years, and takes viewers on a sprawling journey through Black communities and experiences throughout New York City.
The project dropped on Quantum as a dutch auction starting at 1 ETH, and sold out in 20 minutes.
The Big News
Fellowship debuted this week as the latest curated photography platform to enter the space, joining Quantum and Assembly as a new organization helping onboard photographers into the NFT world. Fellowship was founded by prominent collector Studio137 in partnership with Alejandro Cartagena (founder of Obscura), and Chadwick Tyler.
The platform is divided into two core missions: Facilitate the entry of legacy photographers into NFTs, and build “the world’s preeminent collection of NFT photographs.”
The aforementioned Gregory Halpern was the first artist to debut with Fellowship, and there already is an impressive roster of legacy photographers on deck for future drops, including Magnum photographers Jim Goldberg, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Jonas Bendiksen, and more.
Given the speed and breadth in which which Alejandro Cartagena’s Obscura has established itself in recent weeks, Fellowship is primed to make a big impact in the NFT photo world.
Who We’re Tracking
RawDAO has completed its first round of photography acquisitons, led by a provisional curatorial comittee, and we’re looking forward to the next stages of the DAO, what it collects next, and how it’s public presence may evolve. Will Raw acquisitions become a leading signal for NFT photography collectors? We’ll see, but in the meantime it’s fun to browse the early stage of their collection.
Obscura has just released the first of it’s Curated Season Pass drops, featuring new work of Magnum photographer, Cristina de Middel. The Curated Season Pass program is a commission-based initiative providing photographers funds up-front to produce new bodies of work for the NFT ecosystem, and is one of a number of ambitious initiatives the platform has been rolling out. Most recently, Obscura released a community portrait project called Who We Are on Foundation.
Assembly has been quiet of late since its drop of Hannah Whitaker’s project, Ursula, on December 1st. Though we’ve heard rumors of a special project being announced soon by their founders, Ashlyn Davis Burns and Shane Lavallette. We’re keeping our eyes peeled for what’s to come.
UntitledDAO is expected to announce its public presence this week as a new organization dedicated to collecting NFT photography. The group is composed of some very high-profile collectors, including Richard Kim, Gmoney, WhaleShark, Freddie, and 6529, while also including some core photographer/curator members of RawDAO, Assembly, and Obscura.
KGPNFT is an upcoming platform by curator and photographer Kris Graves, which brings his background as a photobook publisher to the blockchain by giving photographers a means to create NFT-based “limited edition publications.” Graves is also an accomplished photographer in the space in addition to his curator role for Quantum, his track record of excellence gives us strong expectations for this new venture.
NFTphotographers recently debuted as a a social media platform of sorts centered on a searchable database of photographers in the NFT space. It offers collectors a categorized search tool to find new photographers while tracking prices of their work. For photographers, it offers profiles in which they can share their project and career information, while allowing for in-platform direct messaging.
PlayDAO is a newly emergent group of photographers looking to expand on the possibilities of NFT photography by curating themed group exhibitions around the idea of gamification. While in its nascient stages, we’ll keep close watch on activies from the group.
3 Questions with Danielle Ezzo
Brooklyn-based photographic artist Danielle Ezzo dropped her genesis photography collection, ‘If Not Here, Then Where?’ on OpenSea this week. The project uses source material from The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s digital archive, which Ezzo prints, cuts, and recombines into still-life collage photographs that ask questions about the nature of image archives, ownership, and the tension between digital and physical materiality.
Can you tell us about your background as a photographer?
I’m interested in new approaches to image-making and the slippages between innovation and understanding.
What inspires you as a photographer and what do you hope audiences take away from your work?
I will forever be fascinated with looking forward, seeing how image-making tools and the cultural apparatus that supports them shape what photography is capable of becoming. I love science, poetry, painting, and newer fields of study like artificial intelligence and computer vision. I'm inspired by people that take risks in their work, so I try to give myself permission to do the same.
I would be happy if someone were to look at my images and take away that I'm relentlessly curious and dedicated to getting people to look at images and how they're constructed more closely.
What's the scoop with your latest NFT drop?
If Not Here, Then Where? is a forty image collection that engages with The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s vast digital archive of open access images. Which are then printed and constructed into delicate paper mobiles that are finally rephotographed. The project expands on the concerns around post-colonialism, curating within a digital archive, and the slippery idea of “ownership” in virtual spaces where art objects and images proliferate and evolve outside of their original/historical contexts.
On Collecting Photography NFTs
This is the first of a multi-part series exploring what it means to collect NFT photography. As an emerging asset class, we will dig deeper into what seperates NFT photography collecting from traditional photography markets and other NFT assets, consider why the medium holds a unique position in the NFT landscape, and look to the future to find what’s in store for photography on the blockchain.
Pt. 1: On Rarity
The historical nature of photographs as commodity to be bought and sold has been defined by it’s reproductibility. From the glass plate, the negative, or the digital file, an endless supply of prints are able to be produced, which to this point has set the standard of photographers producing their images in editions ranging from 5-50 prints for the traditional collecting world. The practice of offering large editions has of course pros and cons, but has become the standard expectation in the traditional world of galleries and museums.
On the “pro” side, broader collector bases can often be a boon to a photographer’s career, simply for the fact that there can be more individuals willing to help advocate for an artist’s work that they collect. Drawbacks include provenence issues that can emerge from the difficulty in record-keeping involved with larger editions, not to mention that multiples have traditionally been a value-throttling mechanism that has largely held back photographs from reaching the kinds of auction prices that unique works in painting and scultpure have historically enjoyed.
Now, in Web3, the game is changing before our eyes and the market for photography is changing along with it. While NFTs can be minted in multiple editions, the market in 2021 has largely standardized the issuance of photographs as one-of-a-kind NFTs, providing the photography a quality of rarity which is new to its historical market presence. The obvious scarcity of a 1/1 photograph on the blockchain creates an inherent value-add in the object, even while photographers may still produce print editions, which is a practice we don’t expect to change drastically given this new technological paradigm.
Next week: Provenance & Ownership