A Thousand Words
What is the price of a picture?
n.b. Welcome to the sixty-four people who have subscribed to White Noise since my last note on essentialism.
If you have yet to do so, I invite you to visit my about page to understand the purpose of these writings and join nearly two thousand thoughtful, curious folks by subscribing here:
Above: New thing or non-fungible nonsense?
To know me is to understand that I have been, am now, and will continue to be knee-deep (read as: submerged) in both web3 and crypto. For better or worse—depending upon who you ask—this is not new; I have been beating the web3/cryptocurrency drum for a number of years now. The disintermediation of trust, from partial third parties to objective mathematics and cryptography, represents an innovation the likes of which I have never seen in my young life.
But I am getting far ahead of myself—much more on this both in what follows and future editions of White Noise. Simply put, it sure seems that web3 and Tom White are a match made in heaven.
If the above perplexes, fear not!
If the mention of words like web3, crypto, and their complementary acronyms—NFT, DAO, DeFi, et cetera—prompt fears or jeers, derision or confusion, I shall serve as Virgil to your Dante. Before reading further, I strongly recommend carving out some time to read the below pieces in order to gain footing in this nascent, breakneck, exhilarating space. The below represent mere tip of the pixelated iceberg; were this a college course, they would constitute introductory material on the “Web3 101” syllabus.
Why Web3 Matters by Chris Dixon
Web3/Crypto: Why Bother? by Albert Wenger
Ethereum Whitepaper by Vitalik Buterin
The Laboratory for Complex Problems by Packy McCormick
If any—let alone all—of the above treatises whet your intellectual appetite, I invite you to join me in the Invisible College, a web3 learning community of which I am a contributor. Within this comradely collective, a group of the kindest, most curious individuals work to “be [the] home for web3-curious creators and builders to team up, launch projects, and win together. WAGMI.”
I encourage anyone remotely curious to hop into our Discord and write to me in our introductions channel.
The above preamble serves as mere appetizer. In any good meal, appetizers help prepare for what is to come.
I hope these words find you hungry—now comes the main course.
To me, photography exists as one of the most interesting visual mediums. It sits at the intersection of art and science. Its literal meaning—light writing—inspires wonder and belies the sophistication of the chemistry (now code) that led to its creation.
As critic Clement Greenberg wrote:
Photography is the most transparent of the art mediums devised or discovered by man. It is probably for this reason that it proves so difficult to make the photograph transcend its almost inevitable function as document and act as work of art as well.
After all, you cannot lie to a lens. Like a mirror, it does not distort, it merely reflects that which sits in front of it. The only difference between the two lies in their permanence.
A mirror is fleeting, a photo forever.
The below post, written in collaboration with photographer, artist, and curator Justin Aversano and the Quantum Art platform explores where, why, and how these two disparate inventions—web3 and photography—might meet, connect, and interact.
From the Darkroom to the Limelight: The Longtime Development of Photo NFTs
The old adage goes “A picture is worth a thousand words.” That may well be true, however, the way things are going in the land of non-fungible tokens (i.e. NFTs), a picture will soon be worth not only a thousand words, but also many thousands of dollars.
The market for NFTs exploded in 2021. There is no other word to describe such staggering, rapid, exponential growth.
Largely driven by generative art and Bored Ape-style profile pictures (i.e. PFPs), these manifestations serve as identities of sorts to indicate social standing, status, and prestige, calling to mind Balaji Srinivasan’s innovative pseudonymous economy framework.
This impressive run-up has many creators, investors, speculators, and technologists eagerly asking: What’s next?
Well, the truth is much stranger than fiction and, as such, Photo NFTs (Non-Fungible Photographs or “NFPs” perhaps?) seem next up in the cascade of artistic mediums making the jump to the pixelated world of digital marketplaces.
While not insignificant, the market’s interest to date in NFPs has paled in comparison to the hype garnered by its generative and PFP-based cousins.
That is very much about to change.
With all of the fanfare surrounding projects like the Bored Ape Yacht Club in 2021, the market has begun to be saturated with similar efforts. All that seems to be missing from this tried and tested playbook is a collection of Asinine Alliterative Apes.
The kinds of art best poised to be owned on-chain far outnumber the few that have been collected most obsessively so far. In short, we are still so damn early.
Because of this, creators and collectors alike are searching for blue sky—a new NFT medium through which to express and in which to invest.
So why NFPs in particular?
For one, we are already witnessing the very beginnings of their budding ascent. The historic 2021 sale of a piece from Justin Aversano’s groundbreaking Twin Flames collection at Christie’s for $1.1M points to this fact. Much like how Beeple’s eye-popping Everydays sale brought a rush of interest to the digital art market, projects like this stand to do the same for photography. The world is taking notice of creatives like Justin (and those savvy investors, collectors, and enthusiasts buying his work) and is beginning to follow suit.
Further, photography exists as a powerful artistic medium that sits right at home in the digital world. By capturing and immortalizing slices of real life, it carries a gravitas wholly its own. Implicit in every photo is the physical world surrounding the shot and a narrative—all the events that lead up to and follow from its shooting of the present—in which it’s embedded.
At its best, photography reveals to us the beauty that our world-weary eyes all too often miss.
At its worst, photography immortalizes good, bad, and ugly—yet visceral—images of life lived.
Either way, the photographer teaches us to see again.
As smartphones have become ubiquitous and their cameras turned professional-grade, the world has been invited to perform the magic of revealing this beauty. Photography is perhaps the most democratic creative medium in this day and age.
Because of this, NFPs will bring unprecedented levels of creation to the NFT space and empower creators all over the world to capture value from their work like never before.
The real ownership conferred by NFTs gives rise to its inherent economic value—something can only be bought and sold if it can be owned. As we increasingly inhabit the digital world over the coming months, years, decades, we will desire our own, owned assets there. NFPs will clutter the digital bookshelves, cover the metaverse desks, and line the web3 walls that make up our digital world.
Quantum Art is lighting the torch of this revolution by providing creators and collectors alike with a commons in which to congregate and share the world’s most vivid collections as NFPs.
If 2021 was any indication of the power of NFTs to change the way we engage with art, 2022 will mark a quantum leap (pun very much intended) forward in the history of photography.
It is said that entertainers reassert truths while artists reveal them. In this brave new web3 world, creatives are on the rise as entertainers spiral in decline.
I, for one, am all for it.1
Per my about page, White Noise is a work of experimentation. I view it as a sort of thinking aloud, a stress testing of my nascent ideas. Through it, I hope to sharpen my opinions against the whetstone of other people’s feedback, commentary, and input.
If you want to discuss any of the ideas or musings mentioned above or have any books, papers, or links that you think would be interesting to share on a future edition of White Noise, please reach out to me by replying to this email or following me on Twitter.
With sincere gratitude,