Before non-fungible tokens Ravi Vora worked as a commercial photographer, shooting for Apple, Nike and Land Rover. He’s used to helping brands make the trek from old habits to new media – something the subjects of his “Most Influential” piece, Gary Vaynerchuk and Vayner3 President Avery Akkineni, do with brands entering Web3.
Read more: Presenting CoinDesk's Most Influential 2022
Today, Los Angeles-based Vora, 36, has made that journey himself by using more 3D digital art in his work – a shift he made during the coronavirus pandemic when he “couldn’t travel to capture landscapes and portraits with photography,” he explained.
Announcing: An NFT of this image is available for bidding at auction on Coinbase NFT. A percentage of the sale will go to charity.
That’s also how Vora came by non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, a medium he’s found helps him produce not just individual pieces, but a cohesive body of work connected by the blockchain.
“It gives you the idea that there’s this bigger world being created – like the world of Neil Gaiman,” an award-winning author whose characters inhabit rich, fantastical worlds, he said. “There’s a touch point that drives back to my imaginary universe that all these art pieces live in.”
How and when did you first learn about NFTs?
It was pandemic quarantine. Normally I would be traveling the world, but my friends and I were playing games to hang out with each other, and I learned about crypto and NFTs.
I've been a photographer and creative artist for a long time. A lot of my work has been on social, and I wanted to understand how to take ownership of work we post for free, for exposure. When I learned about NFTs, I immediately fell in love with the idea of having provenance tied directly to a piece of work.
What was the first ever piece of NFT art that you made?
I minted a 3D cinematic triptych in January 2021 of this sci-fi diver that was either underwater or in space. You can't really tell – it's abstract. That led me down the cinematic portrait route at the beginning of my NFT journey.
What made you decide to make that piece an NFT?
With my background as a director, storytelling has always been my number one thing. Because this piece lives on the blockchain forever, it felt like I was able to tell a longer story that spans beyond one piece. I can almost tell my own film, or my own serial, that ties back to these pieces. My story as an artist can live on chain.
What were some of your main considerations when creating your “Most Influential” portrait of Gary and Avery?
I've been considering how they’re conduits welcoming people into the space, making [Web3] approachable for brands and people and bridging the gap between Web2 and Web3. Thematically, I’m focusing on that middle space between the old world and the new.
How are you showing that in your piece?
I've been concepting with themes of connectivity. I’ll put multiple hands in the frame, which represent the transfer of knowledge. There could be volumetric light emanating from inside the hands or the mind, tying in the idea of openness and approachability.
It's going to be hard not to include Gary’s mimetic smirk in my piece. That was my first thought when the project [was assigned]. But with Avery involved, it becomes a bigger story.
Is there anything about your subjects that inspire you, or that you can relate to?
When social media blew up 10 years ago, I was onboarding brands into how they should approach Instagram and tell their story through social media, which was a different format than using an ad copywriter. It’s about being authentic and working with creatives who already understand the space, which these brands weren’t used to.
What Gary and Avery are doing with Web3 is helping brands get a foothold without making the community that's already [in Web3] feel alienated.
Where do you see yourself going in the NFT art world moving forward?
I like to understand how technology can help us as artists push forward our imaginations and messages. Being a photographer, what's the latest camera? How does that work? How is artificial intelligence going to assist artists? How do we use all this technology to tell an emotionally impactful story?
When I do travel photography, I might go outside my comfort zone. With art, sometimes it's the same thing – a fear of our own reality. With technology, it's even scarier, because we can feel threatened by it, or we can accept it and make it part of our story. We can be afraid of crypto and NFTs, and people can think it's a scam or not authentically owning anything. Or we can look to the future of digital ownership.