Yout Guide to Photography in the Metaverse
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Opportunities for Artists
Two Open Calls
Photographer of the Week
Conversation with Blockbird
Maryna Brodovska - Mimesis
Ukranian photographer Maryna Brodovska’s recently released collection, Mimesis, is a small group of self-portraits produced after Russia’s invasion of her country. The work’s hybrid interface between subject and background explores the relationship between identity and environment. The works provide colorful and whimsical notes in the artists’ attempt to preserve humor amid the war-brought circumstances of fear and uncertainty.
Jimmy Limit - Spring/Summer Collection
Canadian photographer Jimmy Limit recently released Spring/Summer Collection, a series of 67 still lives of ordinary objects presented as colorful, sculptural works. The work is inspired by online catalog photography, and explores the relationships between common consumerism and the aesthetics of salesmanship that make products appear more alluring and desirable. Limit’s work has previously been published in The New York Times and Frieze Magazine.
This week there are two open calls for photography submissions for exhibition opportunities during next month’s NFT NYC.
Art3 / Karen Navarro
Art3 announced its next upcoming drop, a collection titled The Constructed Self by Houston-based photographer Karen Navarro. The 14-image series explores ideas of identity and representation via a labor-intensive process of transforming traditional prints into physical, collage-like sculptures. The work aims to encourage viewers to consider their own biases toward race and ethnicity while displaying visually-playful mash-ups of Navarro’s subjects.Navarro’s work has been exhibited widely and featured in publications such as The Guardian, Rolling Stone Italia, Vogue Italia, and Aesthetica Magazine.
Flower Gang: NFT exhibition curated by Anna Condo
Photographer Anna Condo has curated an NFT exhibition and sale titled Flower Gang, which presents the work of over 100 artists, primarily photographers and digital artists, who utilize the classical art motif of flowers as subject matter in their work.
The exhibition is hosted on 1stDibs, a leading online marketplace for extraordinary design, which has recently opened an NFT marketplace.
KGP NFT has introduced a new series of video interviews titled Book Talks, which will consist of conversations with photobook makers engaged in the blockchain ecosystem. The series serves as an extension of artist and publisher Kris Graves’ mission to find synergy between photobook and NFT communities.
Obscura / Hannah Whitaker
Obscura has released the final collection from Season 1 of its first Curated Commission series with a body of work from Hannah Whitaker. Whitaker’s collection, Ursula 3, is an extension of her previous Ursula drop and expands on the investigation of an ambiguous fictional character that exists someplace between an AI, avatar, and a fully-dimensional being. Whitaker’s techno-futurist aesthetic creates a body of work that resembles science-fiction, and muses on the relationships between emergent technology and representations of women.
96 Studio / Woody Gooch
96 Studio has released 7 Atmospheres, a body of landscape and seascape photographs by self-taught photographer Woody Gooch that tours viewers through a journey across different ocean locations around the world. Existing alongside a commercial practice that has seen the photographer shoot campaigns for clients like DIOR, Audi, and Billabong, 7 Atmospheres is less commercial and more poetic in its interpretations of the spaces in which surfers around the world seek personal paradise.
Photographer of the Week: Klea McKenna
Many know the work of photographic artist Klea McKenna from her widely publicized Quantum drop from January, No Feeling is Final. Since her NFT debut, McKenna has maintained an active pressence in the NFT community, and has recently partnered up with Assembly for her latest drop, Rainbow Bruise.
McKenna’s NFT practice is an extension from a decade-long, celebrated career in the traditional art photogrpahy world. As a photographer who experiments with the conventions of the medium, McKenna’s work spans physical photograms to digital collage, and critically examines a range of contemporary issues that spark robust conversation.
PhotoVerso: Can you tell us about your background as a photographer?
Klea McKenna: I’ve been a photographic artist for a long time and for the last twelve years I’ve worked primarily with analog photograms, inventing my own cameraless photographic techniques. That often means finding new ways that light sensitive material can interact directly with the environment or with textures from material culture. My work is in several museum collections including SFMOMA, LACMA, Getty Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum in London. I began exploring NFTs in 2021 because of my interest in labor rights and resale royalties for artists. I released a collection with Quantum and now I’m working with Assembly Curated.
PhotoVerso: What inspires you as a photographer and what do you hope audiences take away from your work?
Klea McKenna: My process has always been driven by the possibilities and limitations of my medium: analog photographic materials. In recent years, I have incorporated other techniques from printmaking, painting, collage, textiles to make work that is ever-more wild and unlikely. I am currently most inspired by archeology and artifacts from material culture, both real and imagined. I look at a lot of folk art and iconography to understand how symbolic forms and patterns operate. I want viewers to feel a sense of deep time, feminine experience, rage and beauty when they see my newest work. Is that too much to ask?
PhotoVerso: What's the scoop with your latest NFT drop?
Klea McKenna: Rainbow Bruise is a series of digital collages made from my analog photogram source material that I cut, paint and re-photograph. This is the first time I have made work intended to be on screen rather than printed. I lean into feelings of collapse and regeneration in order to imagine a way through this challenging time. The images resemble ancient icons or effigies but are based on discarded artifacts of our era: the shapes of unfolded boxes and the packaging of consumer goods, which resemble hands, nipples and vulvas. They are at once humorous, irreverent and sacred, reflecting my experience of mothering through the soft-apocalypse.
Collector’s Corner: Conversation with Blockbird
Over the past 8 months, Sydney, Australia-based investor Blockbird has become among the most visible and prominent collectors in the NFT space. With a background as a photographer himself, he has amased one of the largest NFT photography collections that we’ve seen so far. We were happy to sit down and discuss the ins-and-outs of Blockbird’s practice while exploring his vibrant and diverse photo collection.
To start, Blockbird, can you talk a bit about your NFT journey to this point, when you got started and how your approach to collecting has evolved over that time?
I first entered the crypto world in early 2017, so I did have some exposure to NFTs early on through Cryptokitties. Sadly, I didn’t really pay them any more attention until later in 2020, after the hype of DeFi summer had subsided.
I actually minted two of my own photographs in September of 2020, just to see what the experience was like, but my real NFT addiction didn’t begin until I found Art Blocks in January 2021. I started collecting pieces as a sort of guilty pleasure, never imagining they’d be a real investable asset.
The next few months were a very exciting journey in the generative art world but also meant I dismissed NFT photography early on, which is funny, as I’m a really keen photographer myself. I saw Twin Flames and Carpoolers and thought, ‘it’s great what these guys are working on, but I’ll hold fire until I see more of the names I know enter the space.’ Mistake!
In terms of how my collecting has evolved, during the 2021 summer period I made the decision to trade fairly aggressively, as I knew I’d quickly run out of capital to keep collecting otherwise. These days, I’m very much buying to hold longer term and I’m loving the personal curation process - finding work I love and thinking about how it fits into a collection as a whole.
How do you know when you encounter a piece that you love? I’m always eager to hear about collectors’ motivations for deciding what work to buy. Is there anything specific you tend to look for in the work, or even in the artists themselves?
I have quite a developed taste I think. It might not be very good taste, mind you, just that I know what I like and what I don’t. I’m at the stage where something either sings to me or it doesn’t,. The exception to this is when I’m aware that more meaning behind the story of the photograph would make a difference to how I perceive it. I’ve been really pleasantly surprised by that unfolding of understanding multiple times. In terms of aesthetic, however - I know if I like something right away.
I will review an artist’s work as a whole before collecting, but it’s unlikely to impact my decision to buy, if the initial work really appealed to me. I’m not concerned about the number of followers of the size of the artists ‘brand’ in general. Having said that, I do look favorably on very well established photographers from the traditional photo world, as I can assume that there’s a strong investable quality there, as well as something that I’ll enjoy owning and displaying.
When it comes to collecting photography specifically, do you have a particular thesis or set of rules you abide by?
My thesis for photography in the NFT space is that it will be the normal way to buy and sell all major photographic works in 5 years time. This medium allows for a much, much larger collector base than traditional photography. It also allows for more liquidity and more active markets, as trading can happen instantly, 24/7 and across the world.
I’ve loved photography for a long time, but I own very few physical works as I don’t have the space for them, and my family and I are traveling more or less perpetually, so I don’t have a permanent residence to display them. With NFTs, I’m able to own and enjoy and display as many works as I want. I think there are many, many potential photography collectors out there who have a similar set of constraints.
Given that thesis, my belief is that we’re in the early days of a new and very large, active photography market. Therefore, there are lots of great works by great photographers available right now, for prices that we won’t ever see again beyond the next year or so.
Who was the first photographer in the space that you collected, and how many pieces have you amassed in your holdings so far?
That’s a great question, and I can’t remember for sure, but I suspect it was some pieces from Michael Christopher Brown’s Cuba series. He’s since become a really good friend (one of the huge benefits of this space is an ability to have a direct artist/collector relationship) and I did a photography workshop with him in the Congo in February this year.
In terms of number of pieces, I think I have somewhere between 150 and 200 photographic works so far. I think it’s closer to 200 but it’s actually hard to keep track - filtering collections effectively by genre/type is still a challenge.
I love hearing instances like this when artist/collector relationships manifest IRL. As a collector, how would you define your relationships in general with the artists you support? Do you think there should be any sort of expectation within this space about how those relationships should play out?
The relationships that have evolved for me so far have been very enjoyable online conversation for the most part, but in some cases have gone on to collaboration on projects, meeting up IRL, and even adventure travel, in the case with Michael.
In terms of what I expect, I think there should be zero expectation of a relationship, or any other perk, like prints or books or whatever it might be. I think the work should be what you’re buying first and foremost. However, if a relationship develops after I’ve collected some work, I do really enjoy that. It’s so interesting to learn about the creative process each artist has, and just more broadly chat about life, travel, nfts, etc.
Are there any specific photographers that you’re particularly excited about at the moment?
It’s super exciting for me to see Jonas Bendiksen enter the space - I’ve loved his work for a long time. I’ve also been chatting with Matthieu Paley, who’s another long time favorite for me - he’ll be here soon. I’m aware of very significant last century photographers whose work should be coming into the NFT world very soon. I think I can’t name names here, but there’s a lot of famous work in the pipeline, that’s for sure.
Do you have a virtual gallery space that you use to explore curation models for your collection? And do you often find yourself perusing through the collections/galleries of other photo collectors?
I do, yes. I have a 2D gallery here, and a 3D oncyber gallery here. And yes, I love exploring other galleries and collections! One of the very best, in my opinion, is Studio137’s, which you can find here.
Any last pieces of advice you might have for photographers?
A couple things I see often, that I have a few thoughts to share on - playing the long game, and PFPs vs. photo NFTs.
There’s a very important quality to this new market that I think gets glossed over too quickly - collectors’ buying capacity is strongly dictated by overall crypto market conditions.
Unlike the outside world, where income consistency means that art/prints could be bought by anyone at any time, the crypto markets can be feast or famine, on an extreme scale. The flip side of this is that when the market is great, the ability to sell a lot of work, and at high prices is very real. It also means we have a huge new collector class, which is very exciting.
The point I want to make is that you can definitely make this work, à la Kevin Kelly’s 1000 true fans but that income consistency will always be elusive, and boom/bust times will always be very difficult to predict. Plan accordingly, play the long game.
For Pfps vs. photo NFTs - I see a lot of artists comparing the price of a pfp to their photo work. They are not the same investment, they have very different qualities.
You buy a pfp in almost all cases as a short term investment vehicle. You may become so involved in the community that you decide to keep it, but this is less common than it’s made out to be on Twitter. And in 90% of cases if the price gets to the right point - you will sell. When you buy a pfp, you imagine at least some funds can be regained quickly by selling if needed.
Compare this with photo NFTs. You buy the work because it speaks to you, you love what the artist is doing, you want to be a part of that story, you want to have a relationship with that artist. You may never intend to sell, or only sell if prices happen to reach wild heights. When you make this purchase, you’re removing those funds from your available capital for a long time, potentially forever.
A photo nft takes a lot more commitment to buy, but once in a collection, it’s a lot less likely to leave. And that new artist/collector relationship is one on one, which can be a very powerful thing.