I want to preface the rest of this article by saying that I’m team photography NFTs. Despite the reservations I’ve written about, I fully welcome photographers making money by any ethical means necessary. Experimenting with art and technology is fun; no industry should aim to limit that. But photographers are often consumers, and I question those intrigued by NFTs, especially those who seem to favor them over a traditional printed photograph.
Photography Prints Vs. Photography NFTs
Whenever a new form of photographic consumption springs to life, the natural thing to do is compare it to similar products. A digital image and a printed photograph are the same product but delivered differently.
And that’s something important to note: delivery. Because the manner in which a photographer presents an image dictates how it’s received. We’re big on emotions here at The Phoblographer. And, of course, photography NFTs can make you feel something. But compared to a printed photograph, the experience can never be the same. Here’s why.
My Trip to a Photography Gallary
I recently visited a small museum in Mexico. The museum had a whole section dedicated to photography. From beautiful landscapes to the details of Volcanos, the curators hung prints small and large upon the historic walls. It was breathtaking.
Upon seeing the first print, I was in total awe. The level of detail was so incredible it felt as though I stood in front of the scene itself. I was fixated, unable to look away. Forgetting my surroundings, I was transported into new lands and away from the museum. That’s not hyperbole, either. The mental impact of seeing such a beautifully presented print threw me off guard completely, and I was lost in an overwhelming feeling of love for photography.
It’s not often I visit a gallery, especially because of the pandemic. But being there reminded me of what a photograph was always meant to be: physical.
Photography NFTs in the Digital World
In many ways, the digital world has removed our ability to connect to our emotions. Look at how we interact with each other. We have dehumanized our experience when it comes to how we behave online. Anything that happens online happens through a screen 13-15 inches in size. No smells, no feeling, no expert judgment can happen through a screen. That’s a very streamlined way of living life.
Photography NFTs, in my opinion, continue a similar trend: an online product lacking in emotion. That’s not to say they’re not impressive. The industry has many talented photographers creating impressive NFTs. Cath Simard, a guest on our podcast Inside the Photographer’s Mind makes some exceptional NFTs. But if you were to ask me if I wanted the physical or digital version of her photographs, the former would win ten times out of ten. Her work already blows me away. Seeing her photographs in a large 20×30 print would be insane.
But in my opinion, photography NFTs are not about consumption; they’re about the game of blockchain and money.
I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert in NFTs. I know photographers have to invest money when minting their NFTs through third-party platforms. I also know most of them don’t break even. My belief, however, is that NFTs are a trend in our ever-growing digital world, and that’s okay. Photographers can make money, and consumers can have their egos rubbed by saying they own an original. That’s the department where prints and photography NFTs share something in common, but in my opinion it’s the only one.
Thoughts from a Curator
I visited another little photo gallery in Mexico because I wanted to repeat the feeling I had the first time. I wanted to remind myself why I love this craft so much. While there, I spoke to one of the curators. Sadly, I was unable to catch their name. During our conversation, I asked them what they thought about the digital consumption of photography and NFTs. Smiling, they told me:
“The beautiful thing about art is that you can consume it in many different ways. It’s not important how you do it, but as long you do it, because the continuous creation of art is important. Whether it’s a huge print like you see here, or an NFT you see on your computer, being able to feel something and to be taken away is integral to our happiness, especially in our current climate where every day seems like the end of the world.”
“Do I prefer printed art, a photograph, a painting? Of course. But printed photography and digital photography are different experiences. People come and look at prints on a wall because it’s a nice day out, a thing to do with others. While visiting, they can escape and be amazed by how detailed photography can be. An NFT can never provide the same experience, but it can provide an experience. That’s something you should consider.”
While they’re in the same photographic fruit bowl, I learned comparing prints and photography NFTs is no different than comparing apples to oranges. Both can co-exist in the photo industry, and both can be full of importance and value.
From speaking to the curator, I realized while I feel there’s no comparison in terms of feeling and experience, the same may not be true for somebody else. Photography NFTs vs. prints is a battle we no longer need. Instead, it’s time to accept that both are here and they could be here for a long time. The print will never die: I’m certain of that. As for NFTs, time will teach us their lifespan. Thanks for reading.