NFT art and photography share a surprising amount of common ground; neither were immediately accepted nor embraced by the art establishments yet they both managed the make art more accessible, as well as change the entire trajectory of art history.
Those are just some of the parallels between NFT art and photography and we’ll be looking in depth at those parallels and more in this article.
Even in their brief history, NFTs have brought about huge changes to visual culture and the art world in a similar way to photography, but to begin with, let’s define exactly what NFT art is.
What Is NFT Art?
NFT art is quite simply a piece of digital art, the ownership of which is represented by a non-fungible token with its unique data stored on the public digital ledger known as the blockchain.
NFT art shouldn’t be confused with being a new art form or artistic medium as even digital art, which is most commonly represented by NFTs has been around for decades. That being said, however, NFT art can definitely be considered a new addition to the art market.
NFTs are used to establish ownership and create scarcity of a digital asset, assigning value to the asset being represented.
To learn more about NFTs (non-fungible tokens), see our article - What Exactly Are NFTs - Fungible Vs. Non-Fungible Tokens
The Parallels Between NFT Art And Photography
There are numerous parallels between NFT art and photography, and one clear factor is that many of these parallels overlap and feed into each other.
Here are the 5 most prominent parallels:
Not Embraced By Art Establishments
It’s no big secret that at first, photography was not embraced by the art establishments as they viewed it as cheap art, the ability to capture a realistic representation with such ease was something believed to require no real skill or talent.
Despite the long history of photography, it wasn’t until the late 1970s that photographs became considered to be a collectable art form. Prior to that, the primary purpose of photography was for photojournalism and fashion, certainly never for collection or display.
Because of its mechanical nature and the fact that negative process film enabled a photographer to create multiple copies of the same image quickly and cheaply, it was long considered to be a cheap knock-off of existing art forms; holding no place in the traditional art world.
Like photography, digital art (most commonly represented by NFTs) has been long used commercially but given no real staying power or determinable value due to its easily reproduced nature.
However, over the past few decades, many photographers have established their work and their skill, becoming recognised as artists and holding the title with as much creativity and zeal as painters and sculptors have for centuries.
Photography has had a great impact on the world in changing the visual culture with consistent valuable contributions being added to the art world.
We’ve seen the same thing with NFT art in recent years, the changes they have brought about to visual culture have been very noticeable.
NFTs have also made art more accessible to the general public, anyone can view the art from anywhere and at the same time can easily see who owns the artwork in question, thanks to blockchain technology and the transparency that comes with it.
This has caused such a huge shift that it’s becoming more and more common to find digital art being sold by some of the most prestigious auction houses and displayed in prominent galleries around the world.
You can learn more about this subject from our article discussing – How NFTs Changed Digital Art And The Fine Art World.
Not Considered To Have Art Market Value
Adding to the previous point, photography was never considered as being collectable, which was the same for digital art. As a result, neither was believed to have any value on the art market.
The use of limited edition prints helped to create a stronger market value for fine art photography and in some cases for digital art too; NFTs have now added to that market and enhanced it tenfold, with the ability now to establish authenticity, ownership, and the originality of a piece.
Much the same as what happened with photography, despite being an art form that’s existed for several decades, digital art hasn’t been collected in the same way as traditional art. This was mostly due to how easily reproduced it is and the inability to establish ownership or originality.
NFTs have also introduced scarcity to both digitised artworks and photographs, adding more value.
The use of NFTs has made it possible to distinguish an original piece of digital art from a reproduction and shifted digital art into a prominent place within the art industry and the fine art market.
Democratised Art And Made It More Accessible
Before the invention of photography, only the aristocratic or theocratic classes had the means to commission art. Having one’s portrait painted was an expression of wealth and a status symbol.
This was similar with religion, the church would commission artworks of religious scenes as a means of expressing what they believed, as well as to show the wealth of the church.
As the merchant classes gained more wealth and power they began commissioning more secular and decorative works.
Whether it was the aristocrats, theocrats or merchant classes, they ultimately commissioned artworks to be used as a tool for propaganda; as an expression of greatness, as evidence of virtue, or just to show off or generate wealth.
With the use of photography, it became much cheaper and quicker to create an artwork and even possible for the common person to have one’s likeness recorded.
This helped to democratise art, making it more accessible by making it less exclusive.
As photography became even more widespread and accessible, it became more popular amongst the masses who could enjoy it without having to know how to read a photograph in the way that one may need to know how to read a painting to understand exactly what was being shown.
NFT art has worked in a very similar way to photography in democratising art and making it more accessible. NFTs have given anyone with a crypto wallet the ability and opportunity to buy and sell artworks, own original pieces of art and to invest.
Enhanced The Ability Of Traditional Art
Although photography wasn’t immediately accepted by the establishments as an art form in its own right, it wasn’t long before artists began employing it to enhance the ability of their traditional artworks.
One such way was by using photographs as a reference point; saving both time and money when using live models, also offering the ability to paint landscapes from the comfort of a studio regardless of weather conditions.
NFTs have also enhanced the abilities of traditional art in some interesting ways. One major way is by establishing authenticity.
In the traditional art world, certificates of authenticity have long been the way of establishing authenticity and provenance; serving as essential physical documents for the artworks they accompany. The problem with paper documents is that they can be easily stolen, copied or forged.
This is where NFTs come in.
Any physical artwork can be converted into a digital format and minted as an NFT which can then be used as the certificate of authenticity and proof of provenance for the physical artwork; blockchain technology is a guarantee of security for both artists and dealers.
Non-fungible tokens are unique and authentic and cannot be copied or changed, they also record every sale or trade on the blockchain, creating a transparent record that anyone can check at any time.
NFTs being used as digital certificates of authenticity are becoming more commonplace in the art market to prevent scams and establish a genuine record of ownership, authenticity and provenance.
Changed The Trajectory Of Art History
Following on from the previous point, photography completely changed the trajectory of how traditional art and painting in particular evolved.
With photography offering an easier method for the realistic representation of a subject, artists began experimenting and searching for ways to create artworks in ways that couldn’t be replicated by a camera; exploring new subjects and techniques for creating.
These creative explorations shifted the entire art world into whole new ground and the results we saw included an increase in abstraction and the birth of many of the bold and adventurous art styles and movements that we still hold in high regard to this day.
NFT art is having a similar impact on the world of visual culture and the way the art world fits into the real world and is even expanding into the virtual realities of the metaverse.
Became A Foundational Element Of Community
Despite it taking such a long time for photography to gain respect and prestige in the traditional fine art world; it’s clear to see just how popular and creative it has become. It has also become a foundational element of communities and cultures worldwide.
As a matter of fact, photography as a medium for creativity has become a central part of everyday life and serves as the base of communication and self-expression used by every generation.
NFT art has also fostered a large and strong sense of community and that aspect has become very much tied into how the NFT space operates and thrives.
We’ve seen a number of ways that NFT art has paralleled photography, not only in their beginnings but also as they’ve grown as media and been employed by artists in order to further their practice.
We’ve seen how they’ve made art more accessible to the masses and stood their ground until finally being recognised by the establishments. Both have not only enhanced the abilities and opportunities of traditional art but also changed the entire trajectory of art history.
As with many facets of creativity, both NFT art and photography have become central elements of the community and have encouraged new communities to grow around them.
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