…if you look back at how the photo has evolved in ’92, ’93 you had what’s called the JPEG. JPEG stands for joint Photography Expert Group. We no longer say hey, send me a JPEG. We say send me a photo. MP3, back in the day you were extreme MP3. Now you just say what’s that song on Spotify? So I do think the NFT as an extension is going to slowly disappear and it will just basically be the evolution of technology. -Simon Hudson
In this panel discussion recently held at NFT London 2022, ART3 Founder Marc Hartog moderates an exploration into building the creator economy and bringing photo NFTs on chain with Simon Hudson, Michael Boegl, Emre Sarigul. Follow the panel touch upon important topics for creators such as; platforms, artist monetisation and community.
Transcribed as per HappyScribe software, please excuse any oddities
NFT London: Up next, we’ve got a big group. They have a 25 minute panel going on. If everyone wants to stick around, we’re building the creator economy and bringing photo NFTs on chain. So let me go ahead and introduce Simon, Michael, Emre and Marc.
Marc: Thank you. This working? This is working. Cool. So I’m Marc. I’m the founder of ART3.io. I’ll talk a little bit about my journey in a few minutes, but I’m going to be moderating what I hope will be an insightful panel today. But I think it would be great to start off with just a brief intro. Why don’t we start with Emre? Just a little bit about you and your work and perhaps your journey into the never dull world of NFTs.
Emre: So my name is Emre, better known as Turkwise in the NFT space. I got involved with NFTs back in January, and I remember when I first got involved, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
Marc: That sounds very familiar.
Emre: Yeah, because there’s not really a blueprint on what to do when you’re a new artist in the space. So you’re searching for information, trying to find out what to do. But, like, through trial and error, I’ve found my way and I’ve released three collections so far. I’ve really enjoyed the space and the community and, like, the whole WEB3 ethos. So I’m still growing and I still feel like I’m quite new compared to Michael. He’s been here a bit longer and, this space, it changes so quickly, so I’m still learning as we go along. So that’s my little introduction I’d like to pass on to Michael.
Marc: Awesome. Thanks.
Michael: Thank you, Emre. My name is Michael. I’m a professional photographer from Munich in Germany. And my NFTs journey started about two years ago when I got first introduced to the world of NFTs and crypto and blockchain, and I immediately got hooked. So I figured out what to do and it took some time, but in September last year, I minted my first pieces on Opensea, and from there on, it’s basically been a wild ride and it’s been an awesome journey. And I think for me, it’s so much fun being in the NFT space and I’m trying to build every day my community to improve as an artist, as a photographer. And now I’m here. I’m here and talking with those awesome people about NFTs and about photography, and that’s basically it. And I’d like to pass it on to Simon.
Simon: Hello, all 15 of you. How are you doing?
Marc: I think it’s 12.
Simon: How many are there? Hi. How does? Have a wave. You are the special guests who get to see us on stage today. Yeah. Good so my name is Simon. I’m the founder and CEO of a company called cheeze.com. We are helping photographers bring their images on chain. We’re built on the flow blockchain and backed by Dappa Labs themselves. We’re lucky enough to have a rockstar team on our board. Sitting alongside me, we have the Netflix founder Mark Randolph, Apple fellow Guy Kawasaki, and a number of other rockstars as well.
Our goal really, is to build a platform to help the creator economy, as the title says. With a focus on photography, the name cheeze comes from that moment right before you take a photo. Say cheese. Some people call it cheesy, which is also kind of a little bit funny. But what is interesting is when you’re in a company that is using a name like cheeze, and everybody takes a photo and says cheese, you instantly think that they’re into NFTs. Little do you know, they know nothing about NFTs. But anyway, our company is designed to help photographers, like I say, bring images on chain.
We’re working with a number of photographers right now to work with their collections, and our goal, really, is just to understand this space. I think it’s still a little bit early for us to say, this is exactly what we’re doing. We were just talking before we came on stage about what photographers need and how that looks, but really, as a company, we wanted to be that number one marketplace for photographers. There’s still a lot to learn, but, yeah, excited to be here and chat about how we can help bring photos on chain.
Marc: Brilliant. Thank you. And from my perspective, ART3.io, I still call it an experiment. We just had our first anniversary, my background’s in media and my old company, we served what became a pretty large photographic community, sort of building platforms for them. And I got interested in NFTs about 18 months ago. Could see the opportunity.
For me, I think the exciting thing was the ability for, really, photographers to to monetise the work that they love making. We were talking about this earlier. Most photographers have two portfolios. There’s one which is, here’s my professional stuff that pays the bills, which isn’t necessarily the stuff that they want to make, and then that funds the projects that they go and do. And I think NFT is an opportunity to level the playing field, connect people directly with collectors, allow them to monetise that work and allow them to earn royalties, sort of adding fun item on that work that they sold, which is, I think, the opportunity in a generation for photographers. So fast forward to now, I sold that company. I was so excited about NFTs and realised that the two worlds had not collided. If there’s a Venn diagram of the kind of traditional art world and the NFT space, I very naively thought we could bring them together and realise quite quickly that, no, they look at each other and think, I understand you, and maybe we’ll get there one day. Maybe we’ll talk a little about that today. But, yeah, so that’s me.
We’re here to talk broadly about the creator economy and I think I think it’s worth just thinking about what that means to each of us, because I’m not sure anyone actually can say, well, that’s what it is. I think there’s varying definitions. So I’m from your point of view, from Cheeze’s point of view, and your other experiences running businesses, all about community, what is the creative economy to you?
Simon: It’s a great question, and one we get asked a lot as to what the creator looks like. And I think are there any photographers in the room here today? Yes, so we have a few. Are there any people who use Instagram here today? You’re technically photographers, but you don’t like to call yourself photographers. Right. So I think the creator economy is something that is still yet to be fully defined. People who say they’re creators, like YouTube creators or Instagram influencers or whatever that might look like, can vary. I think what NFTs has done is unlock a new wave of creator. People that may be used to using Photoshop, Illustrator or 3D tools have now decided that they have got platforms and verticals to go and showcase and sell that work. But from our perspective, the creator is really the person who’s behind the lens, whether that be a photographer, a videographer, anybody who has a camera in their hand, from an Instagrammer to somebody with a really high end DSLR. So for us, we’re still trying to understand where we define the creator and what that looks like and provide tools based upon the level of experience. But, yeah, I think really, for us, it’s just understanding whoever has a camera in their hand, how we can help utilise them and help the world see their images on chain.
Marc: Cool. Thanks. Emre, how about you? What’s the creator economy? Do you feel that we’re in the creator economy? Do you think it’s something that’s developing?
Emre: Well, I mean, I can only talk from my perspective, coming at it as an artist. The creator economy for me, from my perspective, is that it gives you a lot more freedom. Like for artists, you’ve got a lot more creative freedom to do what you want to do, whereas before, you didn’t have that same right to really express yourself and monetise what you actually enjoy doing. You was working more with brands and doing other kind of projects. But I find with the NFT creator economy, you got a lot more freedom, and that’s always great for an artist. If the collector connects with you, then obviously they can invest in you. But in general, I find it’s a lot more liberating and you’ve got a lot more freedom.
Marc: Michael as a creator, also, your perspective of sort of as an artist who’s coming to this space had some real success, obviously seen some turbulence that we say with the markets recently. How are you changing how you operate? What advice would you have for the photographers in the audience who are thinking about the space or thinking about how to sort of monetise their collections or meet collectors? What’s your process?
Michael: I think it’s really important for new people coming in, especially photographers, to not I mean, if I do photography professional and fulltime. So NFT’s are not my only source of income and if you want to make it as a photographer, don’t bank on NFTS as your only source of income. NFTs for me at the moment is like figuring out or a big opportunity to be an artist.
I consider myself not a creator or photographer, but an artist. And through my photography I want to do art, but to pay my bills, to pay my rent, to pay everything. I’ll do real estate shootings, I’ll do social media campaigns for companies, I did a lot of weddings after COVID now and that’s what’s paying my bills and NFTs and the opportunity that NFTs are providing me is just being an artist and do what I love doing and maybe one day it will pay my bills as well. But as long as that doesn’t happen as a photographer, you got to have different sources of income streams. You can’t put all your eggs into one basket. And if you are considering dropping a collection a piece of photography and mint it on chain and make an NFT. And from a marketing perspective, I mean, just have fun. Just be you. Don’t try to be someone else.
Just be transparent with all the people around, with all the collectors. Because at the moment. It’s especially in our small photography bubble. It’s such a small, small space that basically everyone knows everyone. And if you’re not yourself, or if you’re trying to be someone else and not be transparent, people will notice, will recognise it, and then it’s basically over. So just be you, have fun and try to see what will come and just enjoy the ride. So that’s my tip for everyone who is trying to become an NFT photographer or trying to sell NFTS.
Marc: Yeah, I think authenticity is a really important part of just succeeding in this space. Emre, how about yourself? I mean, it is a really close circle, isn’t it? Everyone does seem to know everyone, so how do you break into that? How do you rise above the noise of so many people clamouring for attention.
Emre: Seconding on what Michael said, if you’re expecting overnight results, it’s not going to happen. Like it’s very rare that it happens. There’s a lot more that goes into it than you initially think before you get involved, you’ve got to be your own, do your own marketing, do your own PR and branding and that takes a lot of time, so there’s a lot of time that goes into this and you’ve got to stay consistent.
I think that’s one of the things that initially is a stumbling block for a lot of new artists entering the space. It’s making those new connections and staying consistent and being genuine, like being yourself, because I feel you see someone doing well when you feel like people feel they have to emulate them. But I mean, the best advice I can give is to be yourself, put yourself out there, tell your story and stay consistent. Keep delivering that message because someone is going to hear it eventually. Sometimes it feels like your message is getting lost. And with the way the algorithm is these days, your work is maybe not being pushed as much as it was before. But, I mean, there’s spaces, there’s lots of communities, there’s discord groups you can get involved with. When I first started, there were people who were really helpful. They’re not doing it for monetary gain. Like, there was a community called the Meta Jungle Community. They really helped me show the ropes, how to get your name out there and so forth. So, yeah, my best advice is just like, make those connections, be yourself, be genuine and stay consistent. And if you really believe in your art, I think it will shine through at the end of the day.
Marc: Cool. I’ve got a controversial question I’m going to ask Simon first, I think, but I’m interested here from everybody who here was at NFT NYC in June? So quite a few, and I think three of us were there as well. So there was lots of talk then about how summer 2022 that sounds right. Was going to be the summer of Photo NFTs, even though the winter was starting to set in, but there was a lot of talk about photography. NFTs were going to be the next kind of big thing. And obviously winter has kicked in in a big way since then. But we’re still here, we’re still standing. The run is a bit quieter than it was in New York. So my question for you guys is, are we kidding ourselves? Are we really the pioneers who are here at the beginning of this new thing that’s going to change everything? Or are we potentially the kind of last guys standing on top of a hill going, no, it’s really good, it’s great, honest. It’s going to be brilliant.
Simon: Well, it sounds like I’m sitting in front of an investor right now because that’s exactly what they say. Why am I going to give you money as the market crashed? I think, in all honesty, photography has been around for a long time. I think if you look at how Instagram started, they initially came up with a product called Burbn and they became Instagram. Essentially, they were just taking the photo elements that worked on Facebook and put it into an app. If you then look at Snapchat, if you then look at TikTok, we’ve always had photography around. And I think that the bit, especially from a business standpoint, that we’re trying to understand is shifting into this creator economy rather than a photographer. And I think also as well when you say about bringing photos on chain, we’ve started to look at what it’s like to be behind the lens not just as a photographer, but as a videographer as well. The lens that we all have in our pockets or we’re holding now, texting our friends is about having a camera on it. If you look at iPhone 14, all about the camera. The latest Samsung, all about the camera. The pixel, all about the camera. So what we’re trying to do is say, okay, well if this photography is so easy to snap, how can we make money from it? But it’s not really the case. The question is, are we kidding ourselves? I don’t believe that we are. I just think we haven’t nailed it yet. An example I give to people when I’m speaking to them is about if you look at how photography is managed right now, and if any of you watch the Formula One, you’ll have seen the Silverstone race earlier in the year where there was a crash on the first corner. First corner came, car crash flipped into the grandstand, was crazy. Right in front of the audience. The photos that went online, that were on social media were taken on a phone shortly after 5, 6 hours later all the getty images came out. What we have done there is we’ve actually shown to the world that photography happens immediately. And the people who capture the audience, the people with the iPhone, not the ones with the DSLR. So what we need to try and understand is how can we monetise those photos? So rather than it being through the getty model and the contracts that you sign a getty and give away majority of the percentage, how can we do that?
So I don’t think that we’re necessarily on a hill saying oh my God, it’s all over. I just think there needs to be a shift and also there needs to be a deeper understanding of what an NFT is and remove that bad name the NFTs have. I was on a panel earlier and I was explaining that if you look back at how the photo has evolved in ’92, ’93 you had what’s called the JPEG. JPEG stands for joint Photography Expert Group. We no longer say hey, send me a JPEG. We say send me a photo. MP3, back in the day you were extreme MP3. Now you just say what’s that song on Spotify? So I do think the NFT as an extension is going to slowly disappear and it will just basically be the evolution of technology. If you see a photo to purchase of Cristiano Ronaldo and you can buy the JPEG or the NFT, we’ve been taught that NFTs are real and have provenance and you have authenticity there.
So I think the term NFT is going to disappear. But in answer to your question, I think it’s still a bit early to understand what’s happening. But photography is never going to die. We all have a phone with a camera on it. So that’s a very long winded answer. But I’m sorry, I’ve just eaten my lamb and rice a bit too fast.
Marc: You said it was very good. That’s very interesting. And I did a keynote in New York and I compared where we are today, where we were in June with 1994 and there’s some really interesting parallels and some of the headlines that are coming out. The internet is just a fad. And compared to some of the things that you see the naysayers are saying today, I think maybe we’re in 1995 now.
Simon: I did this as a graph actually for our deck recently and it was at ’98 or ’99 there were 5 million people on the internet and in 2022 there’s 5 billion. That’s a lot of people.
Marc: And if you look at the number of people who have a wallet who actually understand what this madness is all about, it’s tiny. It’s absolutely fractions of fractions at the moment. So my personal view is that it is still early. It’s very immature technology and the customer journey to minting something, to buying something is horrible at the moment. Yet with all that friction, people are still minting and people are still buying. And I think that’s actually quite encouraging. And I completely agree. The word NFT is just going to disappear in the fullness.
Simon: If you look at the room, there’s a lot more empty seats than there is people. We’re still at that place where understanding photography NFTs and hearing people talk about it is so new. If at NFT NYC you’re talking about how it’s changed since then. Yes, there was a hype around photography. But if you go back to NFT, NYC last November, this time last year again the hype was there. And if you look at how the markets crashed and how people have changed, if you look at, say, drift shoots, who’s got those collections about where my vans go since last November, he’s made a lot of money, but he’s one of the very few. So I think, yeah, there’s still a long way to go. Give it another couple of years. If any investors are in the audience and want to chat, give us a shout because we know what we’re going to say. I need to raise some cash.
Marc: In October, month just gone, photography sales are about 700 ETH in total, which is significantly down even from September. But it’s a long, long way back from where it was previously. The secondary market pretty much tumbleweed at the moment, but what’s happening is there’s a kind of shift. I can sense there’s a sort of shift in the platforms that photography is gravitating toward. You know away from sort of marketplaces like Opensea. There’s more niche marketplaces opening up this Foundation for a while. Last month, 40% of that 700 ETH came through SuperRare, which has come out of nowhere. A relatively short space of time for kind of like one of one photography pieces. What do you guys think as creators? What platforms are you thinking about minting on. There’s opportunities now to create your own sort of mini marketplace. Obviously, you lose the value of having the kind of access to the audience from an existing marketplace. But what do you guys think about when you’re minting? Who are you minting with? Are you doing your own contracts? What platforms do you think are going to be the ones to the future?
Emre: Well, the initial thought is what’s going to last is because, going back to what you were saying before, are we early or are we late? I still think we’re really early, but I would say that because I’m in the space. But the reason I think I’m early is because most photographers I know aren’t in the space, and it’s not that they don’t want to be, it’s just that there’s a problem right now of onboarding people. There’s like a technological barrier and there are issues of security and just a lack of knowledge in general, but there’s interest, but there are still barriers and I think that will change your time and the market will develop and it will become easier to mint and easier to get involved. And going back to what you just asked now regarding the platforms, I don’t look too much into the actual platform, more so into how much is used and is it going to last. I think what’s really interesting, what I find really interesting is doing your own smart contracts as a photographer, because then you can mint out on any chain that you want and you got more control over it. If a platform did end up crashing or ending, you still own your own photography. So that’s how I look at it. In terms of marketplaces, yes. SuperRare. Definitely has a prestige to it right now. There’s definitely a hype and it doesn’t do you any harm being on it. It can increase your brand, definitely. But in general, I’m not looking too much into the platform. I don’t really have loyalty to a platform. I just want to see what a platform would do for me if you get by me.
Marc: And maybe different work on different platforms, as we were talking about yes, earlier too. Cool. I just realised we’ve got less than two minutes left, so I think there will be around outside there if anybody wants to chat after this. But I think it’d be worth it if we can tell people where to find out more about us, how to get in touch with us. From my point of view, from the business, the marketplace platform point of view, all the information is at ART3.io. That’s where we sort of help educate photographers, bring them onboard, represent them, basically help them get into the space and get sales. And then if you want to get in touch with me, my personal website is marchartog.xyz.
Simon: So to get hold of me personally, I’m just @Hudson on Twitter. My surname for the company. If you’re a photographer or an investor, head over to Cheeze.com That’s Cheeze, and we’re at @cheeze on all social platforms as well.
Michael: For me, it’s basically my name. Michael Boegl. I’ve basically got it everywhere on Instagram.
Marc: Boegl. I’ve been saying it wrong for 48 hours since I I’ve met you. Been saying it wrong. I’m sorry.
Michael: Normally, The O is, like, in German, we call it, umlaut it’s like the O with the two dots on it. But it’s basically my name. It’s my Twitter handle, my Instagram handle, my website, my foundation, SuperRare, Opensea name. It’s basically everywhere. It’s just Boegl. Just my name. Michael Boegl.
Emre: And you can find me @Turkwise on Twitter, Instagram, Discord, social medias. Thank you.