All Images by Pedro Aimos. Used with permission.
“NFTs aren’t a trend,” says photographer Pedro Aimos. He adds, “I believe they are the future of how we digest art and culture.” On May 25th, Aimos released his own set of NFTs. Amongst them is a photograph that holds both creative and emotional value. It also happens to be the second all-time most liked image on Instagram.
The photograph is of the rapper XXXTentacion, who sadly passed away in 2018. And in this interview, Aimos shares the story behind the image and the difficult journey he’s been on because of it.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about the iconic image of XXXTentacion. What does it mean to you from both a creative and emotional perspective?
Pedro Aimos: From a creative perspective, it’s one of my favorite images I’ve ever taken of a person. I was able to immortalize him through this photo. From an emotional perspective, I learned that I should use my art as a way to capture moments of my friends, family and those that show me love so that I can immortalize them as well.
Phoblographer: Before his passing, what was your relationship like with XXXTentacion on a professional level?
Pedro Aimos: Honestly, the relationship had just started. X and I only spoke briefly backstage at Rolling Loud and then exchanged Instagram messages about the photos I took of him. We shared a few mutual friends who’d known X since he started and wanted to connect us for future projects.
Phoblographer: He was such a cornerstone in your career. With that in mind, what feelings did you have when the new broke he passed?
Pedro Aimos: When he passed away, I was really fucked up, sad, and angry. I felt sick to my stomach as I followed his career closely. I wanted to hear him speak and just be human, like he was with his fans. I wanted to see how he elevated and changed the music industry because I feel like he was on to something revolutionary.
Phoblographer: What impact did his death have on the way you felt about that iconic image you made?
Pedro Aimos: Surprisingly, it made me more confident knowing how important these images can be when it’s all said and done. It really made me focus on what was important to me, why I started concert photography in the first place, and immortalizing my friends and family in the same way.
Phoblographer: What’s your relationship like with Instagram?
Pedro Aimos: I have a love-hate relationship with it, but ultimately I use it as a tool to showcase my work like a portfolio.
Phoblographer: I ask the previous question because you have the second most liked image of all time: what does that mean to you?
Pedro Aimos: I’m not really sure. It kinda feels like I got the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s factory, but at the same time, it also feels like nothing’s changed at all. It is humbling knowing so many people have seen and appreciated this image, but the stats reassure me even more.
Phoblographer: I understand many people put pressure on you to give up rights to the image. In as much detail as you can, please tell us what that time was like for you?
Pedro Aimos: It was a dark time for me. It kind of crushed my dreams and showed me a lot of creatives don’t get the respect they deserve. At the end of the day, this is about art. It takes me to a higher place and is an outlet of escape for me. It gave me a purpose to start fighting for someone besides myself and helping friends along the way. I dealt with anxiety in high school and it started to resurface as I started freelancing full time.
This incident, getting strong armed, blackballed and many other unfortunate events, started to weigh on me even more. It got so bad I couldn’t really leave my house much for over a year. This left me struggling, trying to figure out how I was going to take care of my family. I started to lean on my friends and had them come on gigs with me. This is why we decided to partner with #Halfthestory. They are a non-profit that focuses on digital well being. This way we can share resources with other young people struggling with their mental health.
Phoblographer: What made you stand your ground and refuse to give up the rights to your image?
Pedro Aimos: Seeing my immigrant parents get taken advantage of their whole life, looking at my daughter as a young artist and knowing she could be in this same position one day. Also where I come from we had very little, all I had is my art and respect. I couldn’t let them take that too.
Phoblographer: NFTs are a new trend. What do you personally like about this new form of art consumption?
Pedro Aimos: This is the first step for artists to reclaim their power and ownership rights so I have to like that. It’s a space where artists can take control and feel safe. The community is so genuine and loving because it’s a bunch of artists who are tired of being used and abused by corporations. It almost feels like we’re about to take part in a real life video game. Ready player one type beat.
Phoblographer: You’re releasing several images of XXXTentacion in the form of NFTs. How did you choose the final set of images, and why do you think they work best for NFTs?
Pedro Aimos: I chose the images that spoke out to me and represented the different kinds of emotions the artist had. I thought about what images could really immortalize XXXTentacion and how I wanted to portray my subjects. Images that his fans and I could appreciate were the most important reasons for choosing the final set. I want his legacy to live on in a great way and wanted the photos to reflect that.
Phoblographer: Can the NFTs be purchased separately or are they part of a collection?
Pedro Aimos: Yes, there are three separate pieces dropping. A 1 of 1 auction will go on for the BIG photo and two others will be dropping in limited editions of 12 and 17. I shot the photo May 12th 2018, and I loved X’s “17” album, so that’s where those numbers came from.
Phoblographer: To ensure you are not just “the man who photographed XXXTentacion”, tell us more about what kind of photography motivates you and what you enjoy.
Pedro Aimos: All kinds of photography motivates me. Street, editorial, landscape, etc. I love capturing moments with the people around me, capturing real culture, and traveling to do so.
Photography has changed my life so much, it’s allowed me to see Colombia, Asia, the West Coast, and you never know what to expect or what you can capture when you’re on an adventure. I went to shoot this festival on a whim, I didn’t get paid, I paid for my own airfare, board, food, and transportation, all for the love of photography and being able to maybe capture some memorable moments. I ended up capturing the photo of XXX that weekend and it reassured me that following my love of photography was what I needed to be doing.