So, what on earth is an NFT?
It stands for ‘Non-Fungible Token’. Which is almost as bad as the acronym, don’t you think? Back in the old days, an artist would sign their work and perhaps hand it over to a buyer with a letter of thanks, which also served to authenticate the work or provide proof of ownership in the future. More successful and popular artists might be represented by galleries or have their work sold at auction houses, which would provide better, sometimes digital ‘paper trails’ of work bought and sold. But in the past, even these have been destroyed, lost or even forged. An NFT is the equivalent of this proof of ownership, only it can’t be deleted, copied, misfiled or accidentally have coffee spilt on it because it sits on a vast computer network: the blockchain.
So, to clarify: every NFT is unique to the digital asset it is created for. And the reason we’re calling it a ‘digital asset’ and not ‘art’? Because you can create a unique NFT and attach it to any digital file – photographs, music… even Instagram posts or Tweets. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey just sold his first ever Tweet for $2.9m, which he then donated to charity.
This sounds amazing! What else do I need to know?
Canon Ambassador and motorsports photographer Frits van Eldik is just one photographer who is looking to NFTs as a way to change the direction of his work. He recommends that before you even contemplate starting, you need to adopt a change of mindset towards your work. “I am talking to some famous Dutch painters and every week they create something, then sell it and never see it back,” he says. “[as a photographer] You have to get used to this idea.” In his world, where you work for commercial clients or media, you receive a fee for your work and sometimes that fee will include the rights to the photography. Other times he sells prints to motorsport enthusiasts, “but I was told to think bigger – and sell only one, with the rights and everything.” Frits views the selling of unique pieces of digital photography as a natural next step to make money as a photographer, especially when the last twelve months have been incredibly tough for many. It represents a new way to get your work out into the market and with the aspect of compromise comes the promise of a higher selling value. He currently spends a lot of time protecting his rights as an image maker (“You’re never fully in control with original images”), so the ability to sell the image and rights wholesale for a higher price is appealing. “It’s a new way of thinking and a new way of living,” he says.