What We Learned This Week: The NFT Bandwagon and the Metaverse

By David Schonauer   Friday January 14, 2022

Will NFTs dominate the art photography in 2022?

Will we soon be living our lives in the online 3D environment known as the metaverse?

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, have certainly reshaped the art world in the past year. (Need a crash course on NFTs? Go here). And that includes the photography corner of the art world. This week we learned that we learned that the Associated Press will launch its own NFT marketplace for collectors who want to purchase AP photojournalists' images. Beginning on Jan. 31, the initial collection of photographs, including Pulitzer Prize-winning images, will start being released over a period of weeks.

With each NFT purchase, collectors will have access to the metadata associated with each photograph, including the time, date, location, equipment and technical settings used, noted CNET. The news service says its system will be built on the “environmentally friendly” Polygon blockchain. and that that as a not-for-profit news cooperative, any funds it collects as the result of the sales will go back to funding “factual, unbiased AP journalism.” AP will also receive a 10-percent fee for images that are resold on its marketplace, added The Verge. AP isn’t the first journalistic enterprise to use or express interest in NFTs: Quartz and The New York Times have sold copies of their articles as NFTs, and Getty Images’ CEO Craig Peters said in December that there’s “a real opportunity” for the company when it comes to NFTs, added TV.

This week we also looked at the buzziest concept in tech circles—the metaverse, a virtual world where users can interact via avatars. The metaverse is being championed by the like of Facebook’s parent company, which not coincidentally is now named Meta. Microsoft and other companies are also eager to colonize this online space with. One research firm estimates that the market for metaverse technologies — including games, virtual reality headsets, and other emerging gadgets and online services — topped $49 billion in 2020 and will grow by more than 40 percent each year, reported The New York Times.

As we reported on Monday, Canon is now also staking a claim to metaverse real estate by developing a virtual reality software platform in which people will come together via immersive Canon camera-powered video calls. Called Kokomo, the platform uses Canon imaging technology to create realistic representations of users. “The calls feel like you are interacting face-to-face, rather than through a screen or an avatar,” notes the company.

Here are some of the other photo stories we spotlighted this week:

1. Scenes from Kazakhstan's Crackdown

Kazakhstan has seen some of its largest public protests since gaining independence from the Soviet Union over 30 years ago — and a deadly crackdown by its authoritarian government in response. The country's president said recently that he had authorized security forces to shoot to kill, noted NPR, which featured images from news service photographers covering the eruption, including Vladimir Tretyakov (AP) (above); Valery Sharifulin (TASS via Getty Images); Abduaziz Madyarov (AFP via Getty Images) and Mariya Gordeyeva (Reuters).

2. Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021 Winners

Photography went to extremes in 2021. By way of proof, look at the winners of the the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021, which humbly calls itself “the world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery.” The overall winner is U.S. photographer Will Saunders for his photo “Dirtbag Superhero,” which features rock climber Jake Talley “striking a pose” as he ascends a rock tower in Indian Creek, Utah.  “I asked Jake to really shape his body into more of a powerful movement rather than the classic falling position,” notes Saunders.

3. When a Master Printer Picks Up the Camera

At the time of his death at age 73 in 2017, Richard Benson had earned an unequalled reputation for his mastery of the processes and techniques of photographic printing. He was also a beloved professor and dean at Yale. His own work with a camera received less attention, but, noted The New York Times, that may change with a new exhibition, titled “The World Is Smarter Than You Are,” on view through Jan. 23 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This is the first museum retrospective of Benson’s photography.

4. The Fading Ways of Indigenous Arctic Hunters

For many of the past 35 years, Ragnar Axelsson, an Icelandic photographer, has joined the springtime expeditions of indigenous Greenlandic hunters, clutching his Leica against the Arctic winds. “In the vastness of Greenland there are places to be found where one gets the distinct impression of being alone in the world,” he notes. Axelsson’s 2021 book Arctic Heroes is an ode to this harsh and demanding place and to Greenlandic dogs and the lifestyle that they have sustained for millennia, noted The New Yorker.

5.  'Nevermind' Album Lawsuit Is Dismissed

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit over rock band Nirvana’s iconic 1991 "Nevermind" album cover, which depicted a baby swimming naked in a pool. Spencer Elden, who was four months old when he was photographed for the cover, filed the federal lawsuit in August against band members, record company executives, and photographer Kirk Weddle, alleging child pornography, noted NBC News. The suit was dismissed after Eldon missed a deadline to file opposition documents to the defendants’ request to toss the suit out.
At top: From Ragnar Axelsson

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