Photography in the Metaverse

Collector’s Corner: 0xrainbow.eth on her journey with NFTs so far, and the importance of supporting underrepresented voices

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'Collectors corner' is a feature as part of our educational series to help people understand, embrace and navigate the world of NFTs and blockchain. Check out the growing collection of stories here.

Collectors are directly supporting artists financially and hopefully that helps fund their future creative pursuits and the development of their careers over time. I try to take a lot of care in collecting the works I do, so this usually involves speaking to the artists beforehand.”

@0xrainbownft’s collection focuses on photography and includes the works of Julie Blackmon, Amanda Lopez, Matthew Albanese, Matthew Morrocco, Richard Renaldi, Delphine Diallo, and Justin Aversano among many others. She is an active member of the Quantum Art community, a new member of RAW DAO, and a curator for Obscura DAO’s ‘The World Today’ collection.

I came across 0xrainbownft through Twitter and immediately gravitated toward her thoughtful threaded posts about the artists she was collecting and why. What became clear to me was that she is someone who thinks about photography critically, is a deeply curious person, and prioritizes the support of artists first and foremost. In our conversation, we speak about her journey with NFTs so far, and the importance of supporting underrepresented voices and artworks that reflect the contemporary moment.

Art3: What was your first introduction to NFTs and how long after did you begin collecting?

0xrainbownft: My very first introduction was CryptoKitties back in 2017. I sort of played around a bit with NFTs in the years since then, but I didn’t seriously start collecting NFTs until last fall (2021). At that time, I decided I wanted to start building up my NFT collection in an intentional way. I collected some pieces here and there, mainly PFPs, but not much more than that. 

One day, and I have no idea how this happened, I stumbled upon Richard Renaldi’s Touching Strangers collection on Quantum. Seeing that collection was my first introduction to photography NFTs. The photographs immediately caught my eye as they are very powerful and aesthetically beautiful. Diving deeper, the collection as a whole was enhanced by reading articles about it and watching behind-the-scenes videos. He spent 6 years between 2007 and 2013 creating this collection. The dedication to producing that body of work and the consistency of the theme were really impressive. It clicked with me how powerful photography–and photography NFTs could be–as a means of representing the life’s work of an artist; accessing a global marketplace of collectors; and being able to seamlessly receive royalties on secondary sales.  That was one of those lightbulb moments where you can see the future unfolding in front of you. I’ve been hooked on collecting photography NFTs ever since (and learning more about photography as a contemporary art form in the process). This is the first NFT I ever purchased, Shalom and Jeff (2013) from Touching Strangers by Richard Renaldi.

'Shalon and Jeff' from the series 'Touching Strangers' © Richard Renaldi

Art3: What kind of work catches your eye the most — are there specific genres or aesthetics? 

0xrainbownft: Right now, I’m a big fan of the aesthetics of photos taken on large format film. Some examples of this would include Touching Strangers by Richard Renaldi and County Fair by Greg Miller. They have a certain sharpness yet soft vibrancy to them that appeals to me. I’d also add that I generally gravitate towards collecting portraits of people as I find it easy to connect with them.

In terms of content, I’m a great admirer of artists whose work embodies the mother’s gaze. Artists that are leading the charge in that regard include Amy Woodward, Lily Hatten, and Mia Forrest. These women tenderly photograph motherhood from a very personal perspective. It’s refreshing to see their unique portrayals and I hope to collect much more of this type of work in the future.

'Jade and Alfie in Bed' from the series 'A Lifes Work V2' © Amy Woodward

I also really appreciate works that challenge the male gaze. One of my favourite (non-NFT) photographic artists right now is Yushi Li. Her work challenges the male and female dynamics and I love everything about it. In her photos, she is always fully clothed while her male subjects appear in the scenes naked. Her art boldly presents an alternative to looking at the human body. I am wishfully waiting for her to bring these pieces to NFT-land. 

Art3: If you could only keep one of the NFTs you have collected, which would it be?

0xrainbownft: Oh my! That is an impossible question, but I’ll highlight the ‘Sassy Girls’ by Jamie Johnson’s Growing Up Traveling collection as it is one of my all-time favourites, and could never see myself parting with it. The image depicts three young Irish traveler girls who are the definition of confidence.

#33 from the series 'Growing Up Travelling' © Jamie Johnson

Art3: Do you have a specific strategy for collecting?

0xrainbownft: Not really. I just try to buy work that I love. That way I can’t go wrong!  The other consideration for me is to collect pieces that depict an underrepresented viewpoint or works that capture an important contemporary moment. That could include collections that document the COVID-19 pandemic such as Amy Elkin’s Anxious Pleasures or the ongoing fear of police violence amongst Black mothers and sons in the United States like through Strange Fruit by Jon Henry. These types of photos are important today, but I imagine even more so in the future as they document particular moments in time. To me, there must be a mix of loving the aesthetics of a piece and an appreciation of the story or perspective behind it. 

Art3: How do you go about discovering artists? Who are you excited about right now?

0xrainbownft: I discover artists from a mixture of places. Sometimes it’s through a recommendation from an artist whose work I have collected in the past. Most times, I’d say it is through photography NFT platforms such as Quantum. There are other platforms and photography DAOs that I keep an eye on as well like Assembly, Obscura, RAW, Untitled, and Jenny Metaverse DAO. Another place I like to discover artists is through Twitter threads made by other collectors or artists. I appreciate it when collectors or artists explain why they collected or created works; it makes for a great place for discovery. 

There are a lot of artists I’m excited about right now, but one who immediately comes to mind is Kiya Tadele, a member and leader of the Yatreda Art collective. Kiya is an Ethiopian artist who has been using NFTs to document and preserve aspects of Ethiopian culture. Her most recent collection, Strong Hair, is a series of 100 360-degree looping motion portraits of Ethiopian hairstyles. It’s a brilliant and beautiful use of NFTs and the blockchain to create something that would not have been possible in a photo or print. It’s a special body of work and is well worth checking out the behind-the-scenes videos to see how they were made across the country.

Art3: What was the collection, NFT, or artist who got away?

0xrainbownft: The one that got away was my very first auction on Foundation. It’s the piece “Violence” from City by Omar Z. Robles. I had only collected a couple of photography pieces at that point and was just starting to discover artists in the space. I came across Omar’s City collection and was struck by this particular piece. It’s this visceral photo of this woman walking in New York City surrounded by men. The three men in the photo are looking at her from every angle while she walks. Her head is held high while looking at her phone but with a bit of a furrowed brow. Whether she is genuinely looking at her phone or doing it to avoid the gazes around her is unknown. The one-word title ‘Violence’ adds framing to the scene. I don’t think you could have staged something better. This is a relatable scenario for many women and, incredibly, Omar caught it. At the time of that auction, I was starting to figure out what types of photos I wanted to collect and was starting to focus on the experience of womanhood (in many different forms) as a central theme in my collected works. Violence was a very important piece to collect if I could.

I started the auction but ended up losing the auction to Chikai. He’s one of the kindest and most thoughtful collectors in the space, so it’s definitely in good hands! But I was bummed at the time and still am about letting that one slip away. I did end up getting two other pieces from City afterward. 

'Violence' from the series 'City' © Omar Z. Robles

Art3: What do you believe your primary role as a collector is?

0xrainbownft: Collectors are directly supporting artists financially and hopefully that helps fund their future creative pursuits and the development of their careers over time. I try to take a lot of care in collecting the works I do, so this usually involves speaking to the artists beforehand. Usually, I will narrow it down to a few pieces, then try to chat with the artist to understand why they made each and what they are trying to communicate. It helps me connect in a meaningful way to the pieces and determine which I would be most interested in adding to my collection. This type of information helps me be a champion for the artists and their collections however I can after the fact. 

After the purchase, being an advocate of the artist, their collection or a particular piece is also something I try to do on social media and digital channels. I think it goes a long way to help them get a greater reach and awareness of their bodies of work.

As a caveat, I am very new to collecting and am always learning, so by no means is what I do the right way! I am trying to figure out how to best collect works and support artists all the time so please take my comments with a grain of salt.

Art3: Naturally, there’s a lot of speculation in the NFT space. Do you have projections as to what the next year will bring?

I am pretty siloed into the world of NFT photography, so I can’t speak to the broader NFT space. That said, I do think that it’s early days for photography NFTs–there’s a bright future ahead. We are in the midst of this digital art renaissance and by being involved in NFTs, whether that’s creating them, learning, writing, or collecting them, you are at the zeitgeist of Web3 art history in the making.

In terms of concrete predictions, I liked this recent tweet/insight by Christopher Smith talking about NFT photography and I completely agree with what he is excited about here. (1) displays for NFTs are improving which will help more people display them at home or elsewhere (2) there will be more metaverse land and apartments that people will want to decorate and (3) there should be continuous improvements and innovations in digital and in-person galleries. I’d also add (4) hopefully NFT exhibits at major art institutions like MoMA. 

It’s an exciting moment to be part of all of this, so I’m just enjoying the ride and trying to get more involved where I can. Please note nothing that I have said here, under any circumstance, should be interpreted as financial advice.

You can view 0xrainbownft’s entire collection here.


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