Opinion: How NFTs are changing the game for photographers

Mar 9 2022, 9:50 pm

Written for Daily Hive by photographer and storyteller Ben Glassco

We’ve all heard the trope: “the starving artist.” It carries an inherent irony given the importance placed on human progress. From cave drawings to the Sistine Chapel, all the way to Mickey Mouse himself, artists have marked ages of civilization in their iconic imagery. Yet, parents would more likely proudly proclaim their daughter an engineer or a lawyer, while seldom celebrating their artistic sons.

As a photographer, it took until the age of 30 to gather the courage to commit fully. Since then, I’ve managed to make a living travelling the world, shooting for tourism boards, and creating my own landscape art for collectors. This was a long, arduous journey, and money can still run thin. My “success” is rare, and most of us are forced to take work shooting projects that don’t align with our vision. Taking wedding gigs, children’s parties, or stock photography work. 

The bottom line: Artists become artists to pursue PASSION, yet we often find ourselves doing soul-sucking work instead of creating what we love.

NFTs are changing all of this.

What is an NFT?

I won’t bore you with jargon. Basically, NFTs (Non-fungible Tokens) are digital pieces of art that cannot be duplicated. Essentially they are one-of-a-kind lines of code attached to an image or video. They can then be sold to art collectors who will either proudly display the NFT in their virtual galleries (the metaverse) or re-sell/trade them…sometimes for enormous profits.

Basically, NFTs are just like art in the physical world, but digital. 

Sounds like a fad? Between 2019 and 2020, NFT global sales tripled from $80 million to $250 million. In 2021 it exploded, breaching $40 billion, rivalling the physical art world ($50 billion). 

Cath Simard (photo by Bill Yao)

How do they change lives?

Sales figures are all well and good, but what’s important is the impact on artists’ lives.

Cath Simard is a Canadian adventure and composite photographer who went from “living in a car” and having her photos stolen by feature pages…to being a crypto “millionaire” virtually overnight. Of course, it took countless months of dedication, but Cath is now world-renowned as one of the greatest forces in the community.

“I was frustrated by large companies taking advantage of artists, taking our work, and controlling our creative vision. Now I create my own art based on my own vision, and my collectors love it.”

Elliott Chau (photo by Julian Herbrig)

Elliott Chau is another Canadian selling out of almost all his NFTs. Recently, he’s become an icon in the community, leading packed chat rooms and online discussions on how to find creative freedom as an artist.

Before NFTs, there was no real market for landscape photography. Most landscape photographers resorted to other strategies for income….whether that be through presets, courses, social media, etc. NFTs has revolutionized the industry by making it possible for photographers to truly do what they love for a living.

Leaving Instagram in the Dust

Finally, and most importantly, the NFT realm has liberated many photographers from the toxic algorithm of Instagram, introducing them to a world of cooperation and abundance.

Almost every photographer has migrated to Twitter, where teamwork, support networks, and live chat “spaces” await to discuss strategy and learn. Where Instagram thrived off of toxic trends, “FOMO,” and body dysmorphia, Twitter is currently celebrating talent and honest art. 

What about my NFTs?

As for me? When I heard about NFTs a year ago, frankly, to me, they sounded ridiculous, too. Until I spent some time researching and creating my first NFT in April 2021. By June, with almost no marketing, it sold for 0.5 ETH ($2,000) to a collector who saw my work on Twitter. 

Ben’s First NFT Sold “Rocky Mountain Rainbow Express”

This was groundbreaking for me. If I could sell an NFT with minimal effort, what if I gave it my all? 

So for five months, I flexed every creative muscle in my body. I filmed trailers, remastered my artwork, hired logo designers, made cohesive concepts, wrote scripts, and formulated a launch plan. By October, I had created my biggest project yet: 

A cohesive series of 12 premium NFTS that work together as one living piece of art. I called it “The 4 Elements of Photography.” You can read more and buy them here.

Bottom Line

To me, NFTs have opened new doors, fostered new relationships, and pushed my creative abilities to the next level. They have created a whole new lane to be creative, display my artistic abilities, and demonstrate to the world what I am truly capable of.

As artists, our greatest strength has always been to adapt to ever-changing mediums in which to express our art. NFTs are just the next exciting leap forward in our insatiable thirst for artistic fulfillment.

Ben’s most Expensive NFT available, “Winter’s Gate.”

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