Saatchi Art in conversation with ART3: Aine Foran & Libby Porteous -

Photography in the Metaverse

Photography in the Metaverse

Saatchi Art in conversation with ART3: Aine Foran & Libby Porteous

Reading Time: 13 minutes

“So I think that is actually the most valuable thing that people can do in the space is if you like something, share it. Don’t just look at it and move on. Share it, help push it out there and then hopefully it will find its first collector. If you can’t be that.” -Libby Porteous

In this Twitter space chat with Saatchi ART, ART3 Co-Founder, Libby Porteous and Saatchi ART Community & Project Manager, Aine Foran discuss all things #NFTPhotography. Find out what we at ART3 have recently been up to and what’s next on the horizon.

Transcribed as per HappyScribe software, please excuse any oddities


Aine: Hey. Thanks for joining us. And yeah, a few more people will kind of trickle in throughout the time that we’re chatting. Well, today I am joined by Libby, who is the co founder of ART3, and we’re super excited to speak with her about photography in the WEB3 Space, as well as her thoughts on developments in the space in general, in addition to the projects that ART3 has going on. So super excited. Yeah. If you want to go ahead and introduce yourself, that would be awesome.

Libby: Cool. Hi. So happy to be here. Thank you for having me first of all, as you’ve just mentioned, I’m Libby, so I’m the co founder of ART3. Yeah. Excited to talk about what’s going on in the space at the moment.

Aine: Awesome. Yeah. Sweet. So we can just get things started. First, I am curious to know because I feel like time in this space in particular varies so much. I feel like you can feel simultaneously like an expert and also, like, you know, nothing, even after years. So I’m super interested to hear, when did you join the WEB3 space initially and what inspired you to do that?

Libby: Yeah, it’s such a weird question when we ask this to people because WEB3 years are so much quicker than in real life.

Aine: Totally.

Libby: So it feels so weird to say, like, I’ve only really been in the space for probably like a year and a half, two years. Yeah, exactly. It feels like ten years. It is mad. But I think originally what brought me to the space was actually the technology. I’m actually quite nerdy. I’m really interested in physics and maths, but I’m also an artist, so I actually studied fine art and illustration at university. And I’m also a photographer myself, but only really for fun in my spare time. So I guess the WEB3 space sort of inspired my technical mind as well as my creative. But also I started to notice photographers from my Instagram feed, in my Twitter feed after I’d been here for a bit and I think I had this realisation of the potential of the technology, that it has for artists. By like, you know, proof of origin traceability, continued royalties, verified ownership and obviously the super cool network of communities as well. Yeah. So initially technology, but after a while, I realised how cool it is for artists.

Aine: Nice. Yeah. And I feel like those things really go hand in hand. It’s like the technology itself, even in a vacuum, is really, really cool. But then when you look at the applications towards sovereignty for artists, I think that makes it even more powerful.

Libby: Yeah, that’s it exactly. The technology is so cool. It’s so clever as well. It’s just amazing that we’ve got to this point where artists can utilise it for the better as well. So it’s being put to good use.

Aine: Yeah, I definitely agree. I had a couple of friends who for years they were like Aine, you have to get into cryptocurrency. All of this is so interesting. What’s going on? And I was like, that’s kind of cool. I was a little interested to not like deep into it, but then I feel like NFTs and what they unlocked for artists was what really got me down the rabbit hole because I was like a very powerful use case.

Libby: Me too. It was the same for me. It was a friend in real life that told me about it. He explained crypto kitties to me and crypto punks and I was just what? What is this? What is this world? And literally, it was like so intense. The next few days following it, I was well and truly down the rabbit hole.

Aine: Definitely. Yeah. I think someone showed me a page of how much crypto punks were selling for and I was like, I do not understand.

Libby: It is crazy. It is crazy.

Aine: Yeah.

Libby: It is. Yeah.

Aine: Cool. Well, that’s awesome. So then, in terms of ART3 and its specific focus on WEB3 photography and I feel like that’s such a great use case in particular because photography itself is a digital medium and being able to verify things like scarcity and provenance for such a powerful art form is such an amazing thing in and of itself. But when you look at the WEB3 photography space as a whole and what’s going on there? What are you most excited about?

Libby: Oh my gosh, there is so much going on at the moment. We’ve got new marketplaces emerging and we’ve got DAO being utilised by collectives. I find DAOs particularly exciting. I actually also work with a DAO tooling company called Āut Labs. So I think there’s so much more to come there. But I would say what I find most exciting is seeing artists from in real life make it into the space. I think it sort of validates the technology and it shows that the space is so inviting and welcoming, but also that it is expanding. For example, when we discovered you guys were breaking into the space, we were so excited. Like a name which has such an impressive profile in real life like yours. It’s just so cool watching people like that come into the space.

Aine: Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah, and we’re definitely excited to do it too. And yeah, I can speak to my experience working for Saatchi Art. I mean, we talk to artists pretty much every day who are like, how do I sell NFTs, how do I learn this technology? And we’re definitely still fine tuning the process of getting people onboarded. I mean, there’s definitely the exclusive drops that we do, but then also just thinking through broader ways to welcome people into this space, that can often be very confusing and intimidating if you don’t necessarily know where to start. All of this potential definitely deserves to be harnessed. And there are a lot of curious artists out there who are like, how do I get started here?

Libby: Yeah. And there’s so many more to come. Like, I feel at the moment when you actually look at how many people in this space, it’s relatively small still. There are so many more artists in real life to still discover the space. But I think you’re right, it can be quite daunting, but hopefully in time it will just seem smoother and easier.

Aine: Yeah, I definitely agree. And I think having players like Christie’s and Sotheby’s do major auctions for WEB3 native photographers, I think is a really big deal because it shows that this isn’t necessarily just a weird fringe thing for people now, is, like, how they build their careers and how they build status. So that’s cool to see.

Libby: Yeah, that’s what I mean by validating the space. More and more people come into it, the more we’re proving that this technology works, this is the place to be.

Aine: Yeah, absolutely. Awesome. So, I’m curious, I’d love to hear a little bit about ART3 specifically and what your mission and vision is for photography. I know some of it from when we’ve talked, but I’d love to hear, like, your specific perspective on it.

Libby: Yeah. Okay. So ART3’s mission is to support, educate and help photographers who are coming into the NFT space, but also we help collectives discover bluechip photographic art, not only from artists who might already have quite a large profile, but also up and coming artists. I think, as we were just saying, one of the most important things we do is support artists that are brand new to the space. So we help them build their WEB3 profile, but also with the technical aspects that we were just saying, which can be so daunting.

Aine: That’s super awesome. How many I mean, Ballpark, how many artists would you say that you’ve helped so far?

Libby: Oh, my gosh. Well, we have some collections which have multiple artists, and the first Edition365 collection had 365 pieces of art in it. so, hundreds, I suppose.

Aine: Yeah. Super impressive. Yeah, definitely. That’s amazing. So then, in terms of the drops, I know you mentioned Edition365. What is your favourite thing ART3 has worked on this year?

Libby: Oh, my gosh. That’s a really hard question. We’ve worked in so many.

Aine: Well, yeah, you could have multiple answers. It’s okay.

Libby: Well, probably one of the most notable that we had was James Mollison’s James and Other Apes. We’ve had SuperGrannies of Korogocho by Tobin Jones, Psychedelic Pioneers by the father of light painting, Dean Chamberlain, which was pretty cool. A favourite, though. That’s so hard. I should probably pick one, though, maybe. Okay. I’ll probably go with the SuperGrannies of Korogocho. Okay. Just because the grannies in these photographs are unbelievable and the photos are so striking. So it’s by a photographer called Tobin Jones. He’s just done such a fantastic job of educating the viewers on what’s going on in Korogocho, but also photographing them in such a powerful way. It’s so unusual. To see grannies doing martial arts, it’s kind of shocking, but in an inspiring way, I suppose. Have you seen that collection?

Aine: No, you know what? I actually haven’t. I think I’ve seen at least, like, three or four collections that you guys put together and all of them are really great. Think I’ve seen that one, though.

Libby: Yeah. Basically, it’s this group of grannies that live in a slum in Korogocho. It’s quite sad. They’ve been targeted for all sorts of crime by gang members because, of course, they seem really vulnerable. But what is so amazing is these grannies are basically turned around and said, absolutely not, we’re not taking that. And they’ve put together a little group where they taught themselves self defence and kung fu so they can fight back. And it does actually seem to be working really well. The crime has heavily reduced since they started doing it.

Aine: Wow.

Libby: Yeah. And Tobin’s photographed them in all sorts of cool, like, kung fu poses.

Aine: That’s super powerful. And it’s also very much like diving into a very real story. That.

Libby: The other part that’s really cool about that is Tobin is so passionate about it, we put some money aside for the grannies as well during that drop, he literally took it to them in real life, he went back to the slum and he gave them their donation.

Aine: Wow. That’s really cool. Yeah. I’ll definitely check that collection out. Yeah, that’s really neat. Yeah, please do. Yeah. Amazing. Sweet. On that note, do you have anything coming up that ART3 is working on that you’re excited about?

Libby: Yes, we have quite a lot of things on the horizon at the moment, actually. Some things I suppose I can talk about and other things not just yeah, totally, totally.

Aine: Yeah.

Libby: But yeah. At the moment, we’re in the judging phase of the open call Edition365 2022, which, as I mentioned earlier, it follows on from the first Edition365, which we did last year. The idea is that it’s a collection that stands as sort of like historical reference. So it starts off as an open call for all artists everywhere, but the submissions must be created within a specific 365 day period. This year that’s been between the 1 October 2021 and the 30 September 2022. The first one, that one fell right in the middle of the Pandemic so the first Edition365 was a little bit like a time capsule, what was obviously a very challenging year. But this year it’s sort of like a one year on. Where are we now? But, yeah, we’ve been super lucky. We’ve got such an amazing panel of judges. We’ve got Justin Aversano.

Aine: Nice.

Libby: Yeah. I assume most people have heard of him. Absolute legend. And Jean-Michel Pailhon. So he works for Ledger. Gregory Eddie Jones. Not sure if you’ve heard of him. He works with the Fellowship Trust, but he’s also an artist.

Aine: Yeah.

Libby: And Nour, so she’s from like, a diverse photographic platform called Scopio, which is pretty cool. And Jeff Excell. He’s a big collector. He’s also making PFP projects now. I think it’s pretty cool. I’ve actually also been on the judging panel, so I can tell you the quality of submissions are insane. It’s been really hard to score, to be honest.

Aine: Yeah. I wasn’t on the panel, but I heard from our curation team and judges for our Visions of the Future exhibition. They were like, I think we got 800 submissions for 55 spots.

Libby: Wow.

Aine: Yeah. So, I mean, there were a tonne of artists that we were like. Even though they didn’t make it, their work was still really amazing. We will definitely keep them in mind for other things. So it’s a good problem to have. Oh, my gosh. How do we fit all of these impressive artists into one collection?

Libby: Yeah, definitely. I think that’s the thing. When I was judging this, there was so many that I liked at the end. I think I was too kind. I was like, I like all of them.

Aine: Yeah, totally.

Libby: And I have to go through it multiple times to just be so brutal. I was like, oh, this is painful. But yeah, it should be really exciting.

Aine: Yeah, no, that’s super exciting. And I mean, there’s so much talent in this space. And I think I feel like open calls are a cool mechanism towards discovering talent that maybe you wouldn’t have known about otherwise. So I think that element of it is still really exciting.

Libby: Yeah, absolutely. It’s been so diverse as well. That’s the other thing.

Aine: Yeah, totally.

Libby: So many different kinds of photos as well. Like documentary style, staged, we’ve had, like, fashion type photos, so yeah, it should be quite a diverse collection in the end.

Aine:Yeah, that’s amazing.

Libby: Yeah. And we’re going to be putting it in a virtual exhibition at the end as well. It’ll be interesting to see how they place next to each other. Yeah.

Aine: Almost like, I guess the word Metaverse has been used a lot, but almost.

Libby: yeah, absolutely. That’s cool. I’m actually building it myself.

Aine: Oh, wow.

Libby: I’ve had a little bit of experience with building virtual exhibitions in the past. I did my own virtual exhibition at the very beginning of my journey in the Metaverse.

Aine: Wow. So you weren’t kidding when you said you were like a technical person. Wow, that’s super nice.

Libby: Yeah, I’m really nerdy.

Aine: That’s a great thing to be in this specific field that you’ve chosen, though. Definitely an asset.

Libby: Well, I hope so. I do hope. Yeah. I mean, you haven’t seen it yet.

Aine: I don’t know. I’ve gone to Metaverse quote, unquote, parties where I’m just like a grey Avatar, like, awkwardly walking around a room with everything glitching. So if they beat that, I will be impressed. Okay.

Libby: As long as we’re not glitching, we’re okay.

Aine: And I’m just like, this is cool, I guess. But I would like to see and I’m like, I don’t know how to navigate.

Libby: The platform we’re using is really easy to use as well, so I guess I feel like I’m sort of cheating. We’re using New Art City.

Aine: New Art City? I’ve never heard of that. Okay.

Libby: Oh, my gosh, they’re amazing. The platform they’ve created is so cool. So you can import your own 3D world or you can just build in their base.

Aine: I’ll have to look them up. They sound really cool.

Libby: Yeah, they’re actually partners for the actual exhibition, so yeah, have a look. They’re really cool.

Aine: Yeah, totally. That’s awesome. I’ll definitely have to keep an eye out for that because that sounds really great.

Libby: Well, I hope so. I’m excited for that.

Aine: Yes.

Libby: Hopefully the rest of the world will be too.

Aine: Just in terms of ART3 experience so far, onboarding new photographers and seeing a lot of different journeys, kind of in different stages of development. From your perspective, what do you think the biggest challenge is for artists new to WEB3?

Libby: I think the biggest challenge to any WEB3 artist is probably building their WEB3 portfolio, like their profile, because it’s so different than in real life. Like, even if you have a photographer who is very well known in real life, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to come into the Metaverse and start selling work instantly. I think that’s the hardest thing, to be honest. You need to interact with the community, sort of do some research on what’s already here. And I think a lot of artists can actually become quite disheartened by that when they don’t sell it instantly, which is a shame, because it isn’t usually because their work isn’t wanted. Obviously, the work is usually quite high quality. I guess it just hasn’t found the right audience yet. Yeah, but that’s something we’ve found when we’re onboarding artists, is that one of the most important things we do at ART3 is helping them build their profile and sharing them with our community to bring them up.

Aine: Yeah, totally. Yeah, I definitely agree with that. And I think some of the market conditions are a little bit more challenging compared to maybe some market conditions of traditional art markets. So that’s like another thing to deal with. And then realising, maybe this won’t get collected now, but maybe it will in a few months. That disconnect is definitely tricky.

Libby: Yeah, absolutely. Especially in the current market, things have slowed down, so it’s even harder. That same problem existed before, but now it’s even slower. I think it’s just about waiting. Waiting for the right time and just keep doing what you’re passionate about. Hopefully the community will give back.

Aine: Yeah, I totally agree. Yeah. Awesome. So what do you think that the WEB3 space can do to better support artists?

Libby: I feel like it’s quite relevant to that problem, actually. I think the best thing that people can do to support artists is to share their work. I think we already see that a lot, especially artist to artists. I think it’s the community aspect which is so special here, which you don’t commonly see as much in real life. I think you do get it in real life, but here it’s just so easy to retweet and share and you often find a lot of artists collecting from other artists and sharing their work. So I think that is actually the most valuable thing that people can do in the space is if you like something, share it. They just look at it and move on. Share it, help push it out there and then hopefully it will find its first collector. If you can’t be that.

Aine: Yeah, definitely. I think that part of community is super important and just letting people know. I’m not on Twitter as much anymore, but when I’m on my personal Twitter, if I see an artist who I’m really impressed by, even if I can’t necessarily buy their work at that time, definitely retweeting them and even letting them know. This piece is really amazing.

Libby: Yeah, I think that’s important too, because as I say, when people do become disheartened, it is a shame. So I think it’s good to make sure you’re telling people what you think as well. If you think it’s good, if you’ve got something positive to say it.

Aine: I just have one last question kind of related to that, which is what advice do you have for creators who are curious about NFTs and don’t really know where to start?

Libby: I think the biggest thing you should consider is jumping in and doing research. So there’s a saying in the Metaverse, DYOR.. Doesn’t really have the same effect when you say it out loud. Do your own research. Find other artists who are doing things similar to you. Have a look. Just look at everything. Read everything. Jump into discord servers. Communicate, collaborate and interact. I think the whole point of the Metaverse/WEB3 is that it’s so community orientated. So as long as you jump into the community, all the technical aspects will become clearer over time. But also people are here to help you. Everyone is so happy to help each other. So as long as you jump into the community and you come in with passion and a warm heart. I suppose you will get there, and the community will give back.

Aine: Yeah, I love that. That’s a good note to end all that’s a positive note.

Libby: Kind of poetic.

Aine: Yeah, I think that’s great. I think that’s a good mindset to bring into really anything, but I think yeah, I totally agree.

Libby: I am a very optimistic person. I am a very positive person. Yeah, I would say that is accurate though.

Aine: Yeah, totally. I think that’s definitely true. Well, awesome. I mean, those are all the questions I have for you. We are just right around time. Libby, thank you so much for joining us today. I really, really appreciate hearing all of your insight and thoughts into the space, as well as ART3 itself. Really awesome.

Libby: No problem. Thank you so much for having me. It’s been lovely.

Aine: Yeah, thanks again. All right. Have a good rest of your day.

Libby: All right. See you later.

Aine: Bye.