Home   Kent   News   Article

Canterbury photographer sells NFT for hundreds of pounds as digital movement takes internet by storm

Picture the scene: you've dug out the first tweet you ever wrote ten years ago. It even received a few likes - well done you.

Would you consider selling it to someone? Does your grammatically-questionable one-liner have any monetary value whatsoever?

Would you buy this tweet for £2 million?
Would you buy this tweet for £2 million?

Maybe, maybe not, but when you consider Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey last month sold his first ever tweet for just shy of $3 million, it doesn't seem impossible.

Welcome to the strange and slightly confusing world of NFTs, a movement which, according to one Kent expert, could forever change the way we view ownership of things in the digital world.

But before we really get into this let's clear one thing up - what on earth is an NFT?

NFTs explained

An NFT is a certificate of ownership for something that is virtual.

NFTs are purchased on specialist websites - you can't pay using normal money, you have to use cryptocurrency
NFTs are purchased on specialist websites - you can't pay using normal money, you have to use cryptocurrency

It stands for non-fungible token, which is something that cannot be exchanged with anything else because it is unique.

Currencies, for example, are fungible so they can be swapped easily - you can trade your 50p piece with another person and neither of you will be worse off.

A famous painting or a rare Pokemon card, for example, would both be non-fungible.

What NFTs do is prove the provenance of something digital - artists and creators can 'mint' their creations and sell them to buyers all over the world.

If that person decides to purchase they will digitally 'own' that creation.

NFTs can only be purchased with cryptocurrency, but can be exchanged into dollars or sterling for a fee
NFTs can only be purchased with cryptocurrency, but can be exchanged into dollars or sterling for a fee

So could I just copy and paste an image and then claim I own it?

Well, you could, but you wouldn't actually digitally 'own' it...stick with me here.

The ownership of an NFT is recorded using the blockchain, a vast network of computers which acts as a record of transactions of data.

The more 'blocks' of information added to the 'chain,' the more secure the system is. This is the same system used by cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin.

This means the ownership of that NFT is forever recorded and proven by the blockchain - like a digital receipt.

A Canterbury photographer sold an NFT of his work for more than $500, after being convinced by a friend to add his photographs to an NFT marketplace.

Rudolf Kremers said: "It felt incredible, really exciting.

"I've already sold more digitally than ever before, because I've never sold a digital photo before. This was the first time that two people said 'I value this art enough that I want to spend money in an auction buying it.'"

Though he admitted the idea of spending money on something digital does seem far-fetched, he believes what this boom in NFTs proves is people want to support artists and pay for work they appreciate.

Rudolf said: "I have a professional photo printer here next to me. If you come to me and say 'I really love your work, can you send me a print,' then I can sign it and send it to you.

This is the photo Rudolf sold as an NFT
This is the photo Rudolf sold as an NFT

"If you think about it it's kind of weird - it's just a print. I didn't make it in the dark room, and you could just photocopy it or scan it, including my signature on it. Then what's the difference, they pretty much look the same, right?

"The only reason why it's worth something is I as the author of the piece have authenticated it formally. And that's now an amazing new thing that can happen with digital media that couldn't really happen before."

While Rudolf's sale seems impressive, it's nothing on some of the stratospheric sales made so far.

One of the biggest current crazes is a 10,000-strong collection of digital pictures called CryptoPunks - tiny images of characters made out of pixel art.

The current lowest priced 'punk' will set you back $43,773.91. The most anyone has paid for one of these digital pictures is $7.57m.

People have spent millions on these CryptoPunks. © Larva Labs
People have spent millions on these CryptoPunks. © Larva Labs

What you're saying is I could sell anything as an NFT

Technically, yes - but of course, someone has to feel that what you're selling is worth buying.

The Twitter CEO's maiden tweet sold for an extortionate amount because of its place in social media history.

But the same historical value is unlikely be awarded to, say, KentOnline business editor Chris Britcher's first tweet.

When asked if he would consider selling it, he said: "I'll happily sell it to anyone foolish enough to want to buy it...I'll start the bidding at say £100?"

Would you buy our business editor's first ever tweet?
Would you buy our business editor's first ever tweet?

So does NFT art mean goodbye to art galleries?

According to Myles Corley, the gallery director at the Linden Hall Studio art gallery in Deal, probably not.

The art expert specialises in contemporary modern painting and sculpture, and said the lack of tangibility of these digital works means it's unlikely they would ever replace physical art.

He said: "At the end of the day you can't hang an NFT above a fireplace, you can't sit and share that with your family and friends and have a real piece of artistic response from someone, inviting something into your home that's part of your life.

"That is something which you can't buy online in a cyber form."

But despite his reservations over this new artistic phenomenon, Myles believes the idea is here to stay.

He even thinks digital items like Jack Dorsey's tweet could command even more money in the future.

He said: "Serious auction houses like Sotheby's and Christie's are doing it.

"They could be amazing investments really, as the history of things are changing. The first tweet that was bought the other day, it'll be interesting to see how that accumulates in values - and I'd be fairly confident to say it will."

But these people aren't buying anything real, are they?

A painting by John Corley for the Turning Tide exhibition at the Linden Hall Studio Gallery
A painting by John Corley for the Turning Tide exhibition at the Linden Hall Studio Gallery

Well, that depends on how you define the word 'real' (without getting too Matrix-y about it).

Myles said: "People are buying ideas, but artists have always worked with ideas.

"Carl Andre, the great American sculptor, most famously did a pile of bricks. I don't know how much it's worth now, many millions of pounds, but the actual person who's bought it isn't just buying bricks on the floor. It's an idea, a part of his life.

"Throughout history, the idea of owning the real thing is a huge thrill, to know you're owning a part of someone's creative process. Even if it's a meme you're buying. Memes will in time have their own little footnote in our history.

"The knowledge of knowing you have it, you own a bit of history I think is very special, and that's something that'll never change whether it's cyber or not."

The Linden Hall Studio gallery reopened on Monday as lockdown restrictions eased. Picture: Google Street View
The Linden Hall Studio gallery reopened on Monday as lockdown restrictions eased. Picture: Google Street View

Buyers are scrambling to purchase pieces of digital history, and paying literally hundreds of thousands for the privilege.

So is this a flash in the pan moment?

The general consensus seems to be that it's too early to tell.

Dr Hirbod Assa is a lecturer in Finance and Fintech at the University of Kent's business school in Canterbury.

He said: "We need to understand that NFTs in the first place were a natural response to the fact that how digital art can have a real identity, like physical art. This means even though digital art can be copied, NFTs provide a means to create the unique identity of digital art.

Hirbod Assa is a program director in financial technology at the University's of Kent's business school
Hirbod Assa is a program director in financial technology at the University's of Kent's business school

"Like anything else one needs to wait and see the evolution of something that is newly created. For instance, the futures market in the first place was designed to manage the risk and hedge against the agricultural price volatility, in 1848 in Chicago, but it is one of the most active markets for speculation now.

"The sudden explosion can have several meanings; one can be that it was a concept that many have been waiting for or feel convenient to play in it.

"But it also can be representative of the fact that some aim to be making money from speculation and thin air."

There are definitely more than a handful of people who see it this way - and recent stunts could enlarge the cynical portion of the crowd.

An original Banksy, purchased for $95,000, was burned and destroyed in a live-streamed video.

The piece was then sold as an NFT for $380,000 - after it was destroyed.

Someone paid hundreds of thousands of pounds for the digital token representing a work that no longer exists.

Have fun explaining that one down the pub.

Read more: All the latest news from Canterbury

Read more: All the latest news from Deal

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More