On The New Futures of Photography Created by the Non-Fungible Token

Guest Post by Anna Thorne

This edition is a guest post by Anna Thorne.

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I’ve always had a particular affinity for the non-material and ungraspable aspects quietly floating around and through our human experience, and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT’s) are no exception to this affinity. NFT’s are formed in formlessness, liberators of linearity, free from the wearing effects of time and the clunky density that confines all objects and beings in the material world. We can look to NFT’s not only as a revolutionary transformation in how we think about and experience digital photography, but how we think about and experience ourselves as well as others.

To best understand the radical transformation that NFT’s hold for digital photography, let’s recall the process of how a digital photograph is created. The photographer looks through a viewfinder or screen, exposes for the scene, and presses the shutter button. In a fraction of a second, a four-sided image is born into visual reality. That press of the shutter alchemically transforms photons into pixels. It is important here to remember that a photograph does not capture the forms the photographer sees through her viewfinder, a photograph only ever captures the photons bouncing off of those forms. This fact is what unites digital photography and NFT’s as harmonious companions, for they both live an inherently immaterial, ungraspable existence. After making the image, the photographer uploads it to her hard drive and edits it, making several test prints until finding the perfect combination of edit and paper type to birth the image into the material world. The photograph then gets framed and hung on a pristine white wall. Viewers come to look at the photograph, a beautiful carcass of its initial digital form. The carcass is beautiful but not as transcendent as that angelic, back-lit, pixel-based formless form.

The material world does not last forever, it rusts and molds, it catches fire and splinters, it imprisons the printed photograph in its clutches of temporality, assuring it will one day be destroyed. As for the NFT photograph, its fate remains entirely untethered to such restraints, free to eternally evolve in an ever-expanding digital field. The potential for NFT photography is enormous, for the image is no longer forced to remain as a stagnant print, it is now free to move, to pulse, to slip in and out of video-like character with other images and become a new breed of photography we’ve yet to ever see before. By removing the significance of materiality, NFT’s radically expand (by radical material deduction) the possibilities for digital photography.

With materiality removed from the NFT equation, we are left with a formless conduit capable of placing complete awareness on the affective experience viewers have within themselves when engaged with art (by an affective experience, I mean the personal impact that occurs within a viewer from looking at an artwork, in this case an NFT photograph). NFT’s are capable of placing more significance on the internal experience of the viewer than a physical piece because the NFT’s immaterial nature perfectly parallels the immaterial, ambiguous and ultimately ineffable experience that occurs when an affect takes place. The NFT does not seek to engage or immerse your physical sense of self, but rather it is able to fully engage the non-physical aspects of one’s being. To be more precise, the ephemeral nature of NFT’s engage directly with our consciousness, that equally ephemeral substance we all have yet are constantly discovering. By heightening significance on the viewer’s internal experience, NFT’s can work as meditative mirrors, encouraging introspection over external consumption, internal self-awareness over external-self analysis. The very existence of this immaterial and significant art form points to the notion that what cannot be touched or grasped can have just as much, if not more, of an impact and gravity than what holds form and weight. The NFT is the perfect conduit for helping us to expand our consciousness, for helping us to perceive ourselves and our reality in new ways.

Perhaps the photographic image has always lived in these expanded fields of ephemerality and it is only our level of consciousness that is beginning to rise enough in order to see them. Gone is the day of the jaded outlook, it is time to move forward, with wide eyes and open hearts. Renewal is knocking at our front doors. Those that do not open the door will surely be left behind in the shadows of the rigid, unchanging past. Here is to a future where the power of the immaterial, ineffable and ephemeral forces of life begin to emerge into our collective awareness and appreciation.

Anna Thorne is a visual artist from Florida currently living and working in New York City. She received her M.F.A. In Studio Arts at the University of Notre Dame in 2021. Her photographic thesis ‘Luminous Visions’ was exhibited at the Snite Museum of Art in 2021 and was awarded the Graduate Student Research Award through the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts. Thorne’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. For more information and to view her work, visit her website at http://annathorne.com

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