Your Guide to Photography in the Metaverse
Photographer of the Week
Cutting Through the Noise
Yatreda - Strong Hair
Yatreda is an artist collective that produces work to celebrate the culture and history of Ethiopia. Their most recent drop, Strong Hair, features innovative video loops that provide 360-degree views of hairstyles that represent identity and social status within Ethiopian communities. The project, consisting of 100 pieces, preserves the living history of hairstyles while doubling as elegant and stoic portraits of their owners. While we include a still image here, check out the pieces on Foundation to experience the full version of each work.
Alexander Anufriev - Close-Up Russia
Amid the bleak headlines of Russia’s military threats against Ukraine, Alexander Anufriev debuts a series that zooms in on cliches of Russian culture, amplifying them to comedic, and sometimes grotesque, effect. On-camera flash, super-saturation, and sometimes uncomfortably sharp detail mark the signatures of the series as the photographer inflates Russian Nationalism and archetypes into comic-like rendering.
Frame 11, a Cryptovoxels photography gallery founded by Claudia Pawlak recently opened its first exhibition titled, Persistence. The virtual space is dedicated to exhibiting work of female and non-binary photographers and represents a unique and important entity within an NFT space which thus far has largely been defined by men. The work in Persistence originated from an open call that Pawlak held, and includes 14 artists working in a broad range of technical and conceptual strategies.
After a whirlwind of a week following the 10k drop of August Sander’s archive, Fellowship releases its second curated drop by Jeffrey Milstein. The project, titled Aircraft, is a typology series made by photographing the underbellies of planes and helicopters during take-off and landing from a runway at LAX airport in Los Angeles.
The platform has also begun previewing an upcoming drop by David Brandon Geeting, titled Amusement Park, which we’ll be covering next week.
RawDAO’s latest acquisition is a set of three triptychs by New Zealand-based photographer Mickey Smith from her series, Library of Obsolescence. The project is a product of two decades worth of photographing found books in libraries, forming a quiet document of lost culture while questioning how we hang on, or decide to let go of, tomes of past knowledge and social documentation. Smith also happens to be our Photographer of the Week this week, and we include a short interview with the photographer below.
Last week, Obscura announced the release of a new series by Alessandra Sanguinetti, titled Aerolites, which the photographer describes as “a love letter to the often overlooked rural towns south of Buenos Aires.”
The drop is the first from Obscura’s Magnum Commission program, consisting of 8 Magnum photographers who were provided grants to create new bodies of work to debut as NFTs. The next drop from the Magnum series is expected to release on February 25th, and will be a body of work by Italian photographer Lorenzo Meloni.
Obscura also recently shared the opening of its Obscura Playground Challenge as the latest of its bi-weekly photo contests held for its Discord community. Winners of these contests are included in a special Obscura collection.
Over the past couple weeks, Assembly has been previewing an upcoming drop by photographer Alec Soth, which is set to occur on Wednesday. Soth (pronounced, ‘both’) is widely regarded as among the most important portrait/documentary photographers of our current age, and he will be releasing an early project of his titled Dog Days Bogota, a series that Soth created over the course of two months in Bogota, Columbia, while he waited for the adoption process of his daughter to complete.
Quantum shared news last week that it has completed a Series A round of funding, which raised $7.5 million to expand their platform and bring new artists and team members into their ecosystem. The fundraising was led by True Ventures, a Silicon Valley VC firm that focuses on early-stage tech startups, and included Gary Vaynerchuk and Flamingo DAO as a couple of their largest investors.
Coming up for Quantum is its next curated drop by photographer Matthew Albanese, with a 69-image collection titled Strange Worlds. The series presents photorealistic miniature landscapes fabricated in the artist’s studio, and consist of magical-realist-like environments that are meticulously produced to portray convincing realities.
Ngigi’s work blends portraiture with theatricality as a vessel for exploring mental health. The artist describes her practice as “an intrinsically activist element, encouraging conversation on typically taboo topics through her striking, celebrated portraiture.”
Phto is a new platform that we don’t know much about yet, but judging by its website it will serve as a curated gateway for iconic music photography to step on the NFT stage. On Friday, the platform stealth-dropped a mint pass (500 for .08), which quickly sold out. The pass promises a free mint from each drop for owners along with ‘advanced minting privileges. The platform’s first drop will be by San Francisco-based Rock n’ Roll photographer Pat Johnson.
Photographer of the Week: Mickey Smith
New Zealand-based conceptual photographer Mickey Smith is a familiar face within the NFT photo world, and is recognized for her distinct images of book spines found on dusty, forgotten shelves of libraries which cause the viewer to consider the old, hidden stories and histories that they house. Her work is held in numerous public and private collections, including the Museum of Modern Art Library, Sheldon Museum of Art and Weisman Art Museum, and Smith’s work, as we noted above, was recently acquired by RawDAO.
PhotoVerso: Can you tell us about your background as a photographer?
Mickey Smith: As a photographer, my practice has been engaged with a longstanding inquiry into libraries, books and archives. I'm particularly interested in the social significance of their physical existence or disappearance.
Because I work with archives and data, I'm conceptually drawn to the NFT space. On-chain feels like a natural progression for the work, a place where the books can survive virtually, the books permanently tied to one another to create the first visual and conceptual library on the blockchain.
PV: What inspires you as a photographer and what do you hope audiences take away from your work?
MS: Much of my inspiration comes from conceptual artists who incorporate text into their work. The books here on my desk are by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, On Kawara and Trevor Paglen. Research is a huge part of my practice, every project I have ever worked on (with the exception of the Obscura Foundry Fellowship!) takes years to complete.
It doesn't sound very sexy, but I'm drawn toward mundane, utilitarian visual references. Ideas that are accessible universally, to anyone who experiences the work. The meaning of course lies within the viewer, my hope is one takes away whatever may need.
PV: What's the scoop with your latest NFT drop?
MS: The Volume collection consists of 24 rare titles, each photographed as found on the library shelf. The books are never touched, moved, artificially lit or manipulated. The journals were judged entirely by their covers.
Slipping the library to the blockchain as it recedes from our cultural landscape, the Volume collection was curated with a playful hat tip to the NFT space in mind — reflecting on the pace, politics and people within our community.
Cutting Through the Noise
Since the new year, the NFT photography world has begun to see exponential inflows of new photographers into the space, a trend that likely will only expand further as more artists recognize the potential of the NFT market for their work.
From the Twitter-scrolling surface, timelines are being filled with the work of new photographers, Spaces chats on photography run nearly 24/7, and it can become difficult for collectors to keep so many new projects on their radars.
These changing market dynamics bring new questions of who, and what, is worth paying attention to. Collectors are finding themselves with growing potential of choice within the marketplace, while at the same time, the proportion of artist projects that sell out and achieve secondary liquidity grows smaller due to the oft-tabooed subject of competition among artists. Down the line, will growing competition lead to deflating primary prices? More aggressive ‘shilling’?
Equally difficult is the task for artists themselves to gain and hold attention for their work, and as the number of creators grows far larger in proportion to the number of collectors in the space, attention given to an artist one day can become quickly forgotten the next. In the tidal wave of new photography entering the NFT ecosystem, it becomes more difficult for all to keep their heads above water.
For collectors, then, what is the best way to adapt to these changing conditions? How will the dynamics between independent practice and curated gateways evolve? How can artists build sustainable practices amid rapidly shifting market forces? What can be done to grow interest and collecting activities around photography as a whole?
In the weeks ahead we’ll work on tackling these questions.