NFT Photography: Power in Personal History

By Claudia Pawlak

The NFT world was cheering with excitement on October 6th. Justin Aversano’s successful “Twin Flames”, a photography collection of 100 twin portraits, joined the lineup of photographers at Christie’s, and was now being auctioned off to potential buyers. Twitter timelines were riddled with “gm!” and “wgmi!”. Discord servers buzzing with celebration and praise, from artists and collectors near and far. And all for good reason – Justin Aversano’s “Twin Flames”, with a sale estimate of $100k – $150k, ended up being auctioned for just over $1 million dollars.

A large part of Justin’s success is due to the connections he’s made with those in the NFT community, by sharing his story and creating a community fueled by it. His story is particularly impactful – created as a tribute to the artist’s own twin, who passed away in utero. Personal history has the power to inspire many artists to respond by creating work, and is arguably the most powerful work a photographer can create.

Through introspection, not only can artists create art as a way of navigating their own identities, they are also creating a conceptual narrative that can inspire others in exploring similar ideas and concepts. The works of Ismail Zaidy, Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah, and Karene-Isabelle Jean-Baptiste do just that.

Ismail Zaidy

“Souls Escape #8” by Ismail Zaidy, minted as an NFT on OpenSea

Ismail Zaidy is a photographer based in Morocco. His work is both conceptual and performative, capturing figures as they interact with their environments, often posed and abstract. He utilizes bright colours and shapes, regularly including the djellaba, niqab and hijab as a reference to his heritage, as seen in “Souls Escape”. Ismail’s subjects are often his family members, providing an experience which he describes as a “comfort and beautiful energy between each other”. To Ismail, the subjects in his images aren’t just models, but are collaborators; exchanging ideas and concepts together.

Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah

“Parents. [INHERITANCE – POEMS OF NON-BELONGING]” by Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah, minted as an NFT on Foundation.

Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah is a German-Ghanaian visual artist, photographer, and storyteller. Akosua is interested in drawing new connections through image-making, research, and human connection. Her works range from performative to explorative, always asking questions and seeking new ways to identify different narratives through concept and process. Many of Akosua’s works explore her bi-racial identity, such as “COLORS OF WOMAN I” and her growing narrative “INHERITANCE”

Karene-Isabelle Jean-Baptiste

“I Don’t See It, Do You?” by Karene-Isabelle Jean-Baptiste, minted as an NFT on Foundation.

Karene-Isabelle Jean-Baptiste is a photographer based in Montreal, interested in the “elusive moments of magic that can appear and disappear in an instant within a scene or a human face.” Her works are deeply intimate, often capturing portraits of family members, such as her daughter and niece. The tender moments she captures feel warm and familiar, often reminiscent of the playfulness of childhood memory. In “The Green Dress”, Karene-Isabelle documents her daughter as she wears her green dress, a garment with a rich history spanning back to 1942. This generational act ties them together through culture and history.

Artists are taking a vulnerable step in creating works about their culture, heritage, and life experiences, but it is these artists that are most connected to their work. Photography is not just about capturing a moment in time. Photography has the power to unite people on so many levels through conversation, criticism, and storytelling – and that is why photography is so incredibly powerful. Just as we saw with Justin Aversano’s “Twin Flames”, these life experiences have the power to inspire a community for years to come.