written by Maurice Cardinal …
He tags himself as a NFT Photographer, but doesn’t shoot for NFT.
He has however, in one short month figured out how to sell his entire series of Twin Flames NFT photographs…might be a long load, but worth the wait.
Justin minted 100 images of twins about four weeks ago on Valentine’s Day, and sold them all, individually, in less than a month for about $100,000 USD-some even quickly resold.
You might be thinking that money, is a small player compared to the paradigm shift in art we’re experiencing, however, when you consider how many artists struggle to pay rent and eat, this type of hope literally becomes a lifesaver. Take away hope and you take away will.
Mike Winkelmann and Beeple are jaw-droppingly amazing to watch. It’s also historically cool to witness an art star and new format explode, but it’s start-up anomaly gone wild and doesn’t define life for most of us. Nice dream though.
Justin’s parallel world is street, and real, and totally relatable for everyone.
Justin knows something about community too, and how to connect with art lovers. Justin, primarily a portrait photographer, also creates mixed-media silkscreens. Plus, as a co-founder and creative director of SaveArtSpace, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing community art to public spaces, he appreciates the importance of spiritual and meditative connection.
Justin, like many artists today, isn’t only a creator. He also collects NFT art, and just bought a piece from the Nicole Buffet, Eastern Alchemy series – a group of paintings made with medicinal herbs and transformed into NFT CryptoArt.
When I asked Justin what aspect of CryptoArt NFTs he finds the most amazing he said, “Building community with artists, and collectors! Long term friendships.”
Artists buying the work of other artists is an important part of the CryptoArt scene, because that, is intrinsically how a collaborative community is built.
It makes total sense when you see how much Justin has accomplished in such a short span. I took a walk though his collection at OpenSea and could see that most of his pieces were sold for 0.55e within about a week of being minted. He’s had quite a few resales too, and a few of them happened fast.
Justin’s most visible work is a photo series called Twin Flames, which is literally as it sounds. It’s an amazing collection shot on sheet film of sets of twins of all ages.
Justin’s Twin Flame series is also a book. I saw in a couple of instances where he offered free signed copies to collectors who bought NFT from his collection. It’s a great idea for a couple of reasons. Most obviously, it’s value added and genuinely makes people feel good to receive something they didn’t expect. Plus, it reminds people of the power of analog work. Art feels different when you hold it in your hands or hang it on a wall. Some artists recently have been overly concerned about analog paintings, drawings, and film photographs losing relevance and importance because of digital art. That however is a data-mash of fear and envy talking, and it’s never going to happen. NFT enhances what we already have, and makes art even better. Tech never killed TV, radio, or books, and it won’t kill analog art. You know who it did kill though, newspapers that thought Craigslist was a fad and that it would go away.
The very essence of art is to evolve.
I asked Justin if he thought there was anything confusing about NFT, and he succinctly said, “legal ramifications.”
I’ve written before about the art world being in a transition where technology has outpaced our industry. We are moving so fast that some bad actors are gorging on low hanging fruit. Justin said the most immediate challenges we have to address are “Copycats and unauthentic works made to purely make money in the short term”.
Back in the day when MP3 and peer-to-peer came on the scene, the RIAA was relentless in their effort to defend music rights. They even went after parents whose ten-year-old children illegally shared music. To send a message, they sued some parents for tens of thousands of dollars. The same will happen with NFT, except at a much faster pace considering we’ve been in this parade before. Transitions like this are not a new phenomenon.
Justin isn’t a new or a young artist either, and has considerable experience. When I asked about the last time that he recalled being this excited about an art concept, he said – “Never.”
Me too, and apparently many other artists and collectors feel the same.
I’m especially interested in Justin because he isn’t a pure play digital artist. He shoots analog film and then digitizes it for NFT. He’s figured out a way to bridge the two worlds, and that, is incredibly rare, at least at this juncture.
I was curious and asked if there was a moment when he realized that analog film wasn’t exactly a perfect fit for NFT and the digital manifesto, and again he succinctly said, “No. It is perfect if you are an artist.” He went on to explain that “It feels right. Merging the analog with the digital. Total opposites, but it works!” I asked how he adapted and he said “by educating myself, and spending time speaking to the experts in the field. I care. A lot!”
Justin feels that for artists over the long term, CryptoArt/NFT will improve royalties and increase transparency, protection, and accessibility. For art buyers and collectors, it means NFT will indirectly support artists’ lives, build friendships, and make new projects with artists they collect. Justin feels that galleries will also migrate to blockchain, and continue to represent artists, and that what we are seeing today is a rebirth of the art world!
Justin also shared that CryptoArt has not inspired his photography or creative process. It has however inspired the way he can sell and market his work. It inspired him to make interactive artwork that serves humanity with utility that is not photography based.
He claims, and I agree based on his success so far, that he’s a guerilla when it comes to marketing, and that NFT only helped him find the right collector base. Justin said “It makes artists more accessible to collectors, and vice versa.”
To us at International Artist Day, community is everything. Our mandate has always been to celebrate the contribution artists make to society. We’ve evangelized that gospel daily since 2004 as a self funded non-profit.
When I asked Justin about community, I wasn’t asking lightly about how he feels about the sense of community that’s developed online among visual artists. His response gave me shivers.
Justin said, “It is beautiful, supportive, and like nothing we have ever seen before. We are seeing a big shift of wealth while paying it forward to other artists. It is the right thing to do. Buy artists’ art, when you sell your art is the artist code in the NFT community.”
I then asked Justin how he thinks this new found support will impact creativity. He shared, “You will start to see tons of new collaborations over the next few months to years. NFT brings everyone together to create, as well as collect! Even collectors are collaborating with their artists. It’s beautiful!
A creative cryptonaissance.”
Haha, I love it, now he’s making up words because none exist! That’s truly inspiring!
Artists are one thing, galleries another animal completely, so I was wondering how Justin thinks galleries will be impacted, and how they will leverage these new opportunities. He said, “Galleries will adapt and embrace blockchain technology. We now have a way to sell digital art like never before!”
Justin went on, “We’ll also start to see NFT & PHYSICAL ART exhibitions coincide. I’m in a show like that this week on March 25th!!! Superchief has one gallery in SOHO for the physical art; and an NFT gallery of the same work in Union Square. Parallel worlds, the perfect duality of digital and material spaces that are entwined through art.”
From our perspective on the iADx365.com side of International Artist Day, we see CryptoArt already putting pressure on traditional terms like “Fine Art”. Some artists feel that a “sense” of the quality of art should first be up to the artist of course, but also for the art buyer to decide, and not a middleperson. And also that delineations in art should only be about styles, i.e., painting, glitch, photography/film/digital, pixel, AI, and many more whether analog, digital, or a blend.
The question today is; “When you auction a piece at Christie’s for $69.3 million, does the work automatically fall into the perceived sanctimony of fine art?” For example, one of Mike Winkelmann’s Everyday pieces entitled; “don’t mistake laziness for ‘artistic vision’” is quite a departure from the expectations that have been created for contemporary collectors about fine art.
Based on that …. what exactly is fine art anymore, or what should, or should it not be?
Justin answered, “Fine art is art that has context, historical value, a narrative, and community behind it. Fine art is a term anyone can use. Similar to how Duchamp said his readymades are art. It is up to the artist to decide and coin what art is for the community. It is up to the artists, the critics, the writers, and the institutions to decide what constitutes fine art in the canon of art history. What beeple did, is historical in the art market.”
Regarding Justin’s art; On Twitter he describes himself as a NFT Photographer, so I asked, “Is that a thing now? Should I update my bio too? 😉 It evokes that you shoot with NFT in mind. Do you? Is there a difference for you?” He said “No, it just informs people your photography or art is on the blockchain. For now, it helps you know who is into it, and who is not. I am an artist. NFT doesn’t change anything except how I market and sell my work. NFT is a vague term to be honest, and may not even be the best word to use to represent the movement we are experiencing. NFTs can be ANYTHING in the universe. I am not a NFT photographer, I am a photographer that uses NFTs.” Fair enough buddy.
Justin is a monster portrait photographer and has an uncanny knack for connecting with his subjects. He also uses sheet film, which is extraordinary today. I was a large-format shooter for two decades so I really wanted to know how he balances analog and technology as a contemporary shooter. I asked how he decides what gear to use, sheet film or digital, or does he cover with both? He replied, “In my artistic practice I only use film. It is alchemy; it is MAGIC! Digital photography to me, unless of course I’m shooting a big campaign, is not as magical. The fun part of photography is the unknown. Did I fuck this shoot up, or was this the best shoot ever; or both? You can’t see what you’ve captured until its long passed and you have to move to the next step, which is to process the film, which also, is MAGIC!”
On the subject of SECRETS and anything he can share about how to have the quality of film preserved in digital format, he said “A good magician never reveals his secrets. All I can say is, do what feels right for you! I like creating depth in an image. Creating layers makes the image more interesting; layered like an onion.”
Respective of Justin’s process, I was curious to know how he creatively approaches a piece to digitize it, where does the spark start, with the original film, or with an idea that might take film to a new place … or somewhere else? He replied, “It is a cosmic download. The idea comes first. Then research, then the play of making art with my subjects, then developing, and then digitizing it to display online or print in the darkroom. The electric spark that inspired the original idea emanates throughout the entire process as the final work comes to life for the viewer to enjoy, and to be shown in a gallery, home, crypto wallet, or metaverse museum!”
Many NFT artists use animation, so I was wondering if Justin has an interest in building out a portrait so it breathes a bit? He said, “I keep it simple. Perhaps, in the future I will make a project with the intention to be animated. But for now, I love the way my photography lives on its own as a static image. It breathes life into your consciousness. I will be exploring super 8 film soon, which is another way to breathe life into an image… a moving image!”
I was partially attracted to Justin’s work because he’s already very successfully blended analog with digital on the NFT landscape. In this respect, he’s a pioneer, although I’m not sure if he even fully appreciates it. Consequently, I asked a million-dollar question that thousands of traditional artists are wondering right now. Does access to his original analog film offer creative opportunities different than for pure play digital artists? And if so, does he think collectors will appreciate any differences?
Justin said, “Yes, I can make alternative process artworks and have more fun experimenting with chemistry and light in the darkroom with my negatives. Like I said, there is so much magic involved with the analog process that you miss when you are working in digital. Too many wires! Not enough film.”
I shared with Justin that I’ve seen a bit of interest from collectors to buy my negatives and transparencies since I started minting NFTs, and I wondered if he’s seen any change in this respect? Justin replied, “I have not heard of this until now. I would not want to get rid of my negatives. It is part of my ouvre and library/archive. It is too precious to give away. At this point it is about trust with the artist to the collector to not make more work from the editions you have already created, unless you have agreed. Be transparent with your collectors and your community.”
Justin’s Smoke and Mirrors show is groundbreaking. It’s running in parallel at Superchief in SOHO displaying his physical art, and simultaneously at a NFT gallery in Union Square.
Justin is hosting a CLUBHOUSE Launch Party March 25, 6pm EST.
I asked; How many images will you present, and is there a creative theme, or will it be a random collection?
Justin: I am presenting new work from my current series Smoke and Mirrors, a tarot-based portrait series. Showcasing two portraits – black and white portraits, as well as colorful tarot silkscreens on papyrus of Neil Gaiman and Alex & Allyson Grey. Both NFT and Physical.
How did this project come about?
Justin: It was born from my interest in the tarot, and in connecting with iconic and heroic creatives and healers all over the planet.
Who else is involved?
Can you share any technical insight about what it takes to present an analog/NFT show? Have there been any logistical surprises?
Justin: All you need are walls and frames for the physical art, and digital screens for the NFT. Very simple! I too am curious to hear what the public will say about this exhibition. We shall see!!!
His Virtual Gallery: