Ep. 2: Justin Aversano
Tiffany: Nah, Reddit's gone, Reddit's out.
Alexis: No comment.
Tiffany: Welcome to Probably Nothing.
I'm TZ, founder and CEO of Islands, a new social NFT community platform.
Alexis: I'm Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, former executive chairman, and now founder of Seven Seven Six.
That's a venture capital firm.
We'll get better at this.
And we've got, Justin!
Justin: I'm Justin, I'm a artist.
I'm a founder of SaveArtSpace and CEO of Quantum Art.
Alexis: Hell yes.
Justin: Hell yeah.
Tiffany: Could you share a quick summary about yourself and Twin Flames, SaveArtSpace, Quantum Art?
You got a lot of projects going on for those who don't know you and your story.
Justin: My name is Justin.
I'm a photographer mostly.
And I do paintings and video and sculpture.
I do a lot of mixed media art, photography based mostly.
I do a lot of public art with my nonprofit, SaveArtSpace, and we transform billboards in the public space into art spaces for artists.
Getting rid of ADs and putting up art and getting the message out there to support the people and artists who live in the communities that these billboards takeover.
Quantum Art is our new NFT photo platform that we're launching November 2nd, which may or may not be out by the time this podcast goes live.
There's a lot to talk about depending on what kind of questions you guys have, but mostly I'm here as an artist and, you know, Entrepreneur, thanks to the NFT space, and because of the NFT space.
If that's what we're talking about in this podcast, I've had a lot of success just this year alone.
From the 15 years I've been an artist professionally and I'm only 29 years old.
Alexis: That's great man.
Alright, so you clearly been doing art for very long time.
Since you were a kid.
What kind of stuff were you doing before NFTs?
You talked about some of the different media you used and then how did you go from that to first learning about NFTs?
Justin: Man, I've been an artist practically my whole life, a skateboarder also.
Art and skateboarding went hand in hand for me when I started growing up, mostly photography.
Being interested in people, animals, and plants, and then going to art school at SVA in 2010 to 2014.
I really focused in more on people and portraits.
And you could see when I started at school, I was like a street photographer and I would shoot from like this far away.
But as I get closer to- by the time I graduated, I'd be like this close.
And, I could quote a really good photographer that says, "The closer you are, the better the photo."
So for me, I like shooting people.
I like connecting with people and through photography, it's kind of the way I do connect with people through the art I make.
And so, I mostly started with photography.
You know, when I'm tired of shooting photos, I paint, I collage.
I do a lot of silk screening.
I'm very inspired by silk screening and the amount of work that can be processed in such a short amount of time.
Even though the process takes a lot of time when you're making the screens and getting everything formatted.
So there's a lot of play involved when it's not photography, but it's very serious and playful when I'm creating in photo.
But, the projects are very serious and are very thought out, and I only do like one major project at a time.
And that's why I have four major projects out right now, and more to come.
Alexis: And then how did you first learn about NFTs?
Justin: So, you know, I've been into crypto since 2012.
My roommate was on Silk Road and I was watching and observing.
And at that time I was shooting a lot, so I didn't have time to spend time on the internet, but I was just learning through him when he was buying acid and shrooms and stuff from Germany.
And so I was learning about Bitcoin then, and, you know, I wasn't buying it.
I was just watching and learning, observing.
And then in 2017, I really got into Bitcoin.
As everyone else did before the crash.
And then I learned my first lesson in getting wrecked.
And then, you know, when the pandemic started in 2020, I went back into Bitcoin again and was like, "I'm going to invest."
You know, like what better time to invest in myself and as an artist than putting money aside in something that can potentially grow.
And then, you know, I got early in March, 2020.
I didn't really understand Ethereum, and I was kind of like, what is this crap?
I don't understand it.
Because it didn't have utility to me.
Like Bitcoin has the store of value explanation, but when I learned store of value, right?
That's what people say now institutions are buying it.
Then that means it's valuable because money is involved, right, lot of money.
So, I actually- my mind changed instantly when NFTs happened with Ethereum.
And then I was like, I had my aha moment of like, okay, I understand a theory of now where before I didn't, and now I do because it's smart contracts that make it very liquid and valuable, and also programmable, which is what we're seeing now in today with smart art and smart contracts and what people are developing through NFTs.
So, I got in around February of 2021, but there was a lot of Clubhouse talk in January and that's all that there was.
Alexis: That's right.
Justin: And so, and so if you were on Clubhouse, you were talking NFTs with everybody.
And this is pretty much the place where art met tech, where before that was like, "Where do I meet tech people?"
And I'm sure the tech people were like, "Where do I meet artists?"
Like, Clubhouse was where the conversations were had.
Everyone was trying to learn about NFTs.
Everyone was educating people about NFTs.
And then, and I've said this on other podcasts, like, I tried using Rarible for my first mint and I was completely like pushed away.
I felt like I got robbed and I lost like 120 bucks.
And then at that time I only had like $250 in my bank account.
So it was like half of my money is gone from this and then nothing got minted.
So I was like I lost money.
And then I was, I was lucky enough to be friends with people like G Money and people like Alex Masmej and I say this in other podcasts too, but they really taught me tech wise and strategy wise how to enter the space.
You know, I was taught by Alex how to get a MetaMask and mint on OpenSea.
And I was taught by G Money on actually what to mint and how to mint.
So it was like because of those two people I was very educated and brought into the space with pretty much the top people in the space.
Collector and tech wise.
Alexis: What were the insights about how to mint and what to mint?
Justin: I was already working on Twin Flames since 2017 and 2018.
I finished it, so it was a year that it took me to shoot.
And then by that time I was like programmed to like, okay, this is the project that I'm focusing on.
And I only focus on major projects at once.
And if you look at my website, you'll see my four major projects.
So I'm very focused when I'm shooting, and when I'm creating.
And so from 2017 and 2018, I shot the project.
2019, I made a book and I had an exhibition.
By 2021, I was still promoting it.
My goal was to get it in the museum, because I see myself as an artist and, you know, some people go to art school to be a Gucci photographer.
Myself, I went to make a name for myself in the art world.
And that's how I went to school thinking of who I'd be in the world of being an artist and being exhibited all around the world.
And that's what I wanted to create a project to do that.
So Twin Flames came from a really deep place in my heart to honor my twin sister.
And I do all their projects to honor family members or people who've passed away and really utilize art as a totem of memorial, respect and honor.
And I'm always going to be that way when I create stuff.
So by the time we were talking NFTs- for me, it was like second nature to put Twin Flames up, because it's been something I was working on for four years, and I already knew how to list it because it's just binary in the sense that it was chronological and how I shot it.
And it was chronological how I minted it and posted it on Instagram and my website.
So I just used that format and minted it because I've been working with it for so long.
It wasn't something new.
It was just a new place for the work to live.
And ironically, like it was the best place the work can live because people who weren't in my audience from the art world were seeing it in the crypto space, and Twitter and everyone in the tech world really responded to it and received it in a different way than the art world did, which really like changed my life, because I was bringing people into the art world from the tech space and it was different.
It was a different reception from what I was- what I've known.
And I'm really grateful that I'm here now because of that.
Alexis: I mean, you're being very modest about it.
It is quite an understatement, I mean, the reception was tremendous!
Like the floor, what's the floor price right now?
Tiffany: The floor is like 200 ETH.
Justin was telling me to get in at 40 or so.
I remember him messaging me.
But what was the strategy around- what was the strategy around having 100 items?
So Twin Flames is a collection of a hundred twin portraits, and a hundred items.
And how did you think about the rollout as well?
Whether it was auctioning each one at a time.
Dropping all of them at the same time, dropping them in batches.
What was your thinking around that?
Because, you're very early, you're like the first NFT photographer in the space, who's really made a name for yourself and your two auction houses, and a lot more.
Right, so I know you kind of pioneered this whole space from that collection.
Justin: It's nothing different than what I was already doing and I'm thinking and more so like what I was originally thinking when I had the physical one of ones.
Because, everything I do is pretty much a one of one, if it's like the actual art object, but if it's an addition it's like a one of three or one of five.
So with Twin Flames, it was a one of one, dark room, seed print.
So I shoot with film and everything is analog, and for my work to be on the blockchain is pretty much opposite of what photography was.
Like analog, printing in the dark room, getting film, like- but to live on the blockchain is so beautiful.
Like it really connects these two worlds of past and future.
And so when I listed them, I was thinking like this.
And, G Money really helped me a lot.
So when I first approached G Money, he knew that I was trying to sell the project physical form before NFTs pre NFTs.
One of one, darkroom, seed print, 16x20, and I would only sell it as a set of a hundred.
So that equals a hundred thousand dollars because my fair market price at that time in galleries were a thousand dollars a print for one of one.
And I did not want to sell the projects piece by piece, this thing needs to be together.
It's a community, it's a family, it's a unit.
I look at this whole project as a whole.
When you see it in the physical form, like if you saw the Christie's photos, you see the magnitude of the work when it's installed, like, yes, one picture is something, but when you have a hundred pictures together, they respond to one another, it creates this sensational sublime feeling.
Just like you could see the whole year in one lens in one instant.
And I like to create a lot of projects like that.
And if you look at my website, you'll see, like every project I do is either a 365 project, or our project with a serious theme that creates a volume to have an impression by.
And I don't make one on ones.
I really work with big projects when I do series.
So by the time I minted it, I was being honest to my price.
And at the time 0.55 ETH was the listing price.
And I listed all hundred just to have them up.
And, you know, they were all up for sale, and G Money was really the person who was like, don't sell me the physical thing, save that for the museum, institution, the centralized art world, and then sell me the NFTs, the de-centralized for the collector.
So in a way, when you think of Twin Flames, there's a duality, there's the physical, and there's the digital, there's the hundred physicals that are together for the institution.
And then there's the hundred decentralized digital NFTs for the collectors.
So it's like the people could have it, and the powers that be could have.
And like that's the duality.
And it could only work with Twin Flames, like, I couldn't do that with another project because of the concepts.
So, I listed everything at a thousand bucks and then I sold that in three days.
Thanks to crypto, Twitter, Discord, and everyone who was there supporting me.
And now you have 83 unique owners, which is incredible considering the price of a Twin Flames these days.
Justin: I mean, the whole strategy for me was- because when I sold them all, there was 50 or like 45 owners.
And for me, in my mind, it was, this was my thought process, like, I'm only focusing this whole year on Twin Flames.
Like, I'm not going to mint a whole new project because I want to upkeep and take care of my secondary market.
I want to utilize this royalties tool that NFTs have given artists and put that to the test and also create a large distribution of my work to many collectors instead of just one person having 15 or another, having six.
Like, I really worked with my collectors.
I got one guy down from 15 to 3 because he believes in me and he believes in the project.
And he understood the value and importance of getting it into other people's hands.
So that was my whole marketing strategy of keeping up the secondary to get it to the point where it's 200 ETH.
Like, I had a broker a lot of deals and meet a lot of people and get a lot of people interested and do a lot of work.
Like, it wasn't just happening by itself.
I was, like TZ said, I was working.
I was connecting with people, gauging interest in my work, just like a normal artist would do in the regular art world at gallary shows.
It's nothing different.
Tiffany: So you probably personally know all of these owners, right?
Like all of your collectors owners, people in your community, in your Discord.
Justin: A hundred percent.
Like that's the most important part to me is like, who are these people spending $700,000 on me.
Like, I want to hang out with them.
I want to take them to dinner.
I want to get to know that I'm going to tell them the story.
Like, I don't want to treat this like it's transactional.
I want to treat this like you have a friend forever, and not only that I'm going to reward you with like more upcoming art stuff and access.
So it's like for me, money is just a bonus, but for me, it's like I get to meet people who not only invest in me, but my businesses that I'm creating out of this and, you know, building a community around, pushing the space forward and pushing the culture.
Alexis: I want to dig in on that with the community building front, because I think right now, a lot of folks directly can connect success to signs of community, and really choose breadth or at least aspire to breadth instead of depth.
And you've clearly gone with the ladder and it's clearly working out really well.
How are you approaching it?
Like practically speaking, right?
You just live in the Discord specifically?
Like how many hours do you spend engaging with members of your community?
Where, where are lessons you've learned over these months of doing it where you're like, okay, I'm a much smarter about this now, you know, early on, I was really-
Justin: I'm still learning man.
Alexis: Was it all about the DMs?
Justin: Still learning.
Alexis: Okay, but what have you learned already?
Because what you've already accomplished is something that I think a lot of people listening want.
We want to learn from it.
Justin: I will say this.
It's not only my art.
It's also what I've contributed to the space at large through SaveArtSpace, beyond myself, to be successful in the space.
Whatever that means is you've got to go beyond what you create and create more for others.
But for me, it was easy because I had SaveArtSpace and I was working with the Cryptopunks.
And for me to get my name out there more and build trust in the community with the Cryptopunk community.
Who were people who spend minimum a hundred ETH on an NFT.
So it was like built in that I was talking to the right people.
And not only that I was pushing their culture forward with putting Cryptopunks on billboards with G Money around the world.
So it's like doing that work accelerated my personal work, because it's both me as the artist and my art too, that reflects who I am and the value I put out in this space.
And I think everyone needs to think about that.
It's not just this beautiful picture I took.
It's who you are and what you contribute.
I think ultimately just like any artist in the real art world, look at Warhol, look at Keith Herring.
They always did stuff for the community or something larger than themselves.
So you gotta, you gotta think like that.
Okay, thats smart.
Tiffany: So yeah, back to your point around royalties and how you're thinking about that.
What are the royalties you're taking on Twin Flames and how are you thinking about reinvesting from your royalties back into the community?
Justin: A hundred percent.
So, you know, I get 10% of every sale.
And every 10th- every 1% of my 10% goes to the Twins collectively.
So I just paid out all the Twins after this Christie's auction.
Around $200,000, which was 10% of everything I've made.
And for me, it's like, I want to keep paying it forward.
Not only to the subjects in the works and create a standard around photography to keep giving royalties to everyone involved.
And I think that's the future of self-sustainability that's the future of universal basic income.
I also invest a lot in other photographers.
If you look at my Twin Flames vault, I have tons and tons of photography I buy.
And I think through Quantum, we'll be giving a lot of other new photographers, a place to mint their work, and a lot of collectors who have eyes on what I'm doing on them.
For me, it's like, I want to uplift as many people as possible and create a beautiful future for photographers that never existed because Instagram as social media kind of took that away from us with the disposability of scrolling and not valuing photography.
And we look at photography with a visual- as a visual language.
So it's just like, how do we bring value back to something?
And for me it's like the work I'm doing, and education, I think too.
Tiffany: How do you think people will be displaying photos in the coming years?
If it's not Instagram, obviously that's not going to be the place where talented photographers are showing off their work.
What do you think that experience is going to be like for collectors and creators?
Is it physical kind of one of ones behind you?
Things like that, but also online, obviously online galleries, like Cyber etc...
Justin: I think all of the above.
I think people love prints.
I love prints.
Everybody I've purchased on the NFT space I asked to send me a print, because I understand the value of physical things.
And I like to collect art.
I think the metaverse is obviously one, you know, infinite objects and that type of digital displays is another.
It depends on your taste.
You know, a traditional art world people, if they get into NFTs sooner than later, they'll want the physical.
If you're a crypto collector, you don't want to collect physically.
You're happy with having it on your iPhone.
I mean, Alexis, what do you, what do you prefer?
Alexis: I- okay.
So, I've been perfectly fine having it on my iPhone because the thing that I realized is this is kind of like- this is like a living room that I carry around, but also has a face scanner.
So it combines both the security of a bank vault with the intimacy of my living room.
And so if I need to take someone in like magically put someone in my living room, it's a flex bunch of like Serena Cryptopunks, I can do it with a quick face scan.
It feels secure.
And then there you go.
Now that said, I haven't been looking for- right now the best solution I have is just the Samsung frame TVs.
Just cause I really, I want to maximize size and resolution.
There's some very smart solutions that still don't have the full scale.
And the part that Samsung has gotten right is the commodity product part of it, which is not terribly smart, just pretty.
So it's solving the problem now, but it's the- it's the middle ground.
Like, there's going to be some beautiful hardware that's big that you can just put on the wall.
Justin: I mean, looking at what atomic form is doing.
They made custom square screens, and there aren't any.
Also, thinking ahead in the future we're going to have like AR goggles or whatever, and we'll be able to see the NFTs on the wall.
Like, oh, there's my punk, there's my Twin Flames.
So you don't have to use wall screens.
Tiffany: That's going to be wild.
Justin: But I like physical stuff.
Alexis: Yeah, the hardware stuff is, I mean, at the end of the day, this stuff that exists are just screens and that's going to continue to become a commodity.
So it's just going to get cheaper and better and bigger.
Then it comes back to the, like, what is the best user experience?
So it's your point, yeah, when everyone has simple frames that look like normal glasses, but that can do some kind of projection into-
Justin: Or the neural nets will be in USB ports in our heads.
Alexis: Or the Neural Link, yeah.
It's not a priority yet.
So to your point, but it's like different folks have different preferences, but certainly for the generation on the come up, like this is everything, the phone, the screen-
Justin: It's the remote control of life.
Alexis: Yeah, it really is.
See, that's how we know you're an artist.
That's a very good way to put it.
Tiffany: I was going to say, I really want to understand all of the billboards that you've been doing and how you built out that initial community with the Cryptopunks.
I've I've seen the billboards on Twitter have not seen it in person yet.
Alexis: You don't need too.
If you've seen it on Twitter you might as well have seen in person.
Tiffany: It's so cool though.
I want to see a Cryptopunk billboard.
You need to drop the location.
It's like all of them-
Justin: That was back in April-
Tiffany: It's like a scavenger hunt.
Justin: Yeah, it was a scavenger hunt and we gamified it.
So if you went to see the billboard and you took a selfie with it or took a photo of it, and you put your wallet address, we gave you an NFT of that billboard that you could place in the metaverse of the GLB file.
That's something we did for the Miami show.
And for me, it's like, I like bridging the real world with the digital world and gamifying it, so they play off each other kind of like IRL minting.
It's just like, how do you- treat it like Pokemon go.
Like, how do you keep attention in the physical world through online objects?
And like, for me, it's like creating a balance.
Like I don't want to jump too far in the matrix to the point where we have USBs in our head.
But also too far off from technology that we can't sustain ourselves.
So like I'm trying to be the middle ground and creating some sort of balance with what the work I do and reflecting off each other.
Maybe it's because I'm a Libra, I don't know.
But I will say with SaveArtSpace, my business partner and I, Travis Rick, started this in 2015 and we've been putting art on billboards for like seven years now to put- like I said before, to get rid of Ads, to get rid of the poison of our consciousness and give people a place to share their message and their work in the world, because I'm trying to create a community society versus a consumerist society.
And I think billboards really play on consumerism to the point where it gets you to buy alcohol and, and cars and jeans.
But what I'm trying to create is a message to the community to uplift your soul and inspire you just by a piece of art.
And not only that, giving the artists esteem enough to feel like they too can be an artist and they don't have to be an accountant or a lawyer or whatever.
They could be an artist.
It's a job.
So for me, it's very important not only to do that for artists, but also the social messaging.
Like we work a lot in Black Lives Matter, Trans People Are Sacred, Women's Rights, like we push everything forward and let the community curate and let the community.
Wherever we are working at those people are choosing the artists and the work that goes up because it's for the community.
Let's say for example, Miami or Ohio, like we find someone there to curate because they're home and they choose artists there.
So we also discover a lot and we put that meaningful messaging out there to hopefully change the world and make it positive.
And also an understanding and acceptance in society.
Like I'm trying to create a sophisticated- sophist- Is that the word?
A sophisticated society about art.
Like, why do we have dumbing down and billboards that treat us like, we're just- it's just not right.
I don't like it.
Alexis: I'm pretty sure Buenos Aires the city in Argentina banned billboards for a minute or there was a-
All signage and then they brought it back through bus stops.
Alexis: Oh, they brought it back.
Justin: Look at the bus stops there.
They got you.
Tiffany: Alexis loves billboards.
Alexis: I do love billboards.
I especially love repurposing them.
And hijacking them for-
Justin: We're subverting advertising for public viewing.
Think about it like this private companies.
And I work with them to put our art up there.
Private companies buy these spaces and they're polluting- visually polluting the spaces.
And the people of the, of those places didn't ask or vote or do anything for this.
So it's just like creating a visual thing that we didn't want or ask for through capitalism.
So what we're doing is subverting it to make it beautiful and artistic, and also meaningful.
Tiffany: That's really cool.
So every city that you're kind of doing billboards in- you really do work with the community and you kind of crowdsource and get their feedback on what kind of things should go up on the billboard instead of just big old cooperations throwing something on a billboard.
Justin: Yeah, we don't even take corporate sponsors because it feels better not needing them and that the people pay for it through us as a crowdfunding.
And it's the power of the people.
And like, we don't want Bank of America.
We don't want vodka companies.
We just want to put art on and we don't want to have it branded.
We're a nonprofit.
Tiffany: It's crucial to bridge the physical and digital world in the sense.
Alexis: So crucial.
Tiffany: Billboards are one tool.
Discord and Twitter are other tools I'm assuming.
Justin: Also phone calls and hanging out in person are tools for building community.
Tiffany: Hanging out in person guys.
Do not forget to hang out in person.
Alexis: You call people on the phone too?
What is this, like, such a novel idea, guys.
Justin: What are we doing right now?
Is this a phone call or podcast?
Tiffany: A good phone call.
Alexis: I love that though.
Justin: But at the end of the day when you look at social media and you look at all this online engagement and interaction, at the end of the day it's like don't you want this energy in the real world in a physical space where we can like smoke joints or drink and like make art together.
I feel like that's the purpose of social media is to bring us back into reality to hang out.
That's what I try to create.
During COVID it's tough, but I feel like we're on the latter end of it, and now we're starting to emerge through this "Cryptenaissance" of this new renaissance of art and tech that is going to flourish because so many people are making money now.
And now that gives us more tools to create.
More cool things.
Alexis: There's an amazing virtuous cycle, and I feel like I called this really too early when I backed Patreon in like 2014, I was on stage telling people about a second renaissance that would come because of things like Patriot.
And a lot of ways it did bring out a whole nother wave of creators, but web three is actually really bringing it out.
And it's amazing the trend that you hit on.
That's so powerful.
These artists and early creators now being able to reinvest in the next generation.
This is what made Silicon valley.
It was a bunch of nerds who made money, building technology companies, investing in other nerds who were building the next gen of technology companies.
And that spun up the flywheel so damn fast that it let college kids like me get funding to start Reddit.
And now, obviously that is not limited to any geography and you see a tech hubs everywhere.
And that's the great flourishing of a tech community, you know, because when they're successful startups, you just make a bunch of angel investors who basically now have enough money to reinvest in the thing they know really well, which is other technology companies.
That has- I mean, you're seeing the proof of it right now.
Now you take away geographic constraints and you offer it to a creator class or a, you know, a maker class, thats not engineers and developers and designers.
Well sort of designers.
We know it's not people building startups, it's people doing creative projects.
Dude that flywheel, it's going to spin, because it turns out the best people at sort of picking what to back, what to invest in are more often than not the operators, the practitioners, the doers.
And I believe it's the exact same in the arts as it has been in technology.
And it's going to be a lot of fun.
Cause I mean, we've never seen an art world that is fueled by the choices of other artists, right?
The Medici's were just a wealthy family.
You look at all the patrons of the arts, historically it's just rich people who through one means or another rarely art and rarely creativity acquired their wealth and pick stuff that they liked for whatever reason.
Justin: Here's a good example.
In the Renaissance, I think, when we saw the paintings of Jesus.
Who was commissioning that?
Who was advertising Jesus?
Alexis: The Pope?
Justin: It was the church!
So like I'm thinking of it in terms of culture and the patrons and where we're at now.
And now the creators are also the patrons.
And now the tech VCs are also giving abundance to the creators.
So it'slike this self-sustainable loop and because of royalties, it really up keeps everyone for every project you make moving forward.
I think that's the most beautiful thing.
And the most important thing about NFTs dude is the fact that artists retain royalties and no collectors should want to take that from the artists.
Cause I see a lot of talk like that, but it's like that should not be said.
Alexis: Agreed, and Justin, I want to double down on your point, because there's a reason Jesus got paler and paler.
He went from being, you know, a dark skin, middle Eastern Jew to being like a fair skinned blonde haired, blue eyed Jesus.
And that's not a coincidence.
And that is a very deliberate, I mean, that's that puts the punctuation on the point you just made.
Is that this was imagery very clearly being used as a propaganda and very clearly, you know, more a reflection of sort of what certain people wanted it to be then what even the sort of reality of the original person was in this very particular case.
The more creators you have enabled to make the art that is true to them and honest to them, and then getting enriched by that.
I really think you actually then by default, bring- that's not to say there's not a lot of work to do, but by default you're going to bring a lot more authenticity, and a lot more diversity to the artwork that gets created,
There's still a lot of work to be done for sure, in the NFT art world, but I think there's a path here to a much, much more honest account of artistry and creativity, which is great.
I think it also accelerates our culture to reach new technological discoveries.
But I think when art is flourishing, that's when science and technology are also flourished because of the conversations had between people like yourself, me, and other scientists, maybe at NASA or Cern.
Like, these are the people that need to connect, because these are the people thinking.
And we need our thought leaders in this space to create a better future for everyone.
Alexis: For real.
Justin: And then, you know, going back for a second and talking about a contemporary version of Jesus, like, being paid for by the church.
I would say, look at Warhol.
Like look at all his paintings.
He practically brought commercialization into the museum world from abstract expressionism to complete corporate control in the fine art world, through the work he was creating with Coca-Cola and Campbell's and every other brand he's ever used in his works.
And it's like, the people probably commissioning him or buying his art around then were the people who were the advertisers.
So when you fast forward to now, the people commissioning and supporting artists are all the tech VC funds or people in that space and, like, that's why we're seeing Cryptopunks surface up in the fine art world, because you guys are the patrons.
And at the end of the day, it's like when you follow the money, that's where the art really comes out of.
Like, all the crypto art, all the smart contracts.
Luckily photography is now part of this through the work I'm doing and other people are doing, but I think photography got left somewhere between being created in the 1850s and like being sidebarred through social media.
So I'm trying to really bring value back to something so sacred and also scientific, and that should be respected as a fine art form.
And it is.
Tiffany: Justin, if a talented photographer wanted to launch their own NFT collection.
How would you approach it?
What would you suggest to them?
Justin: I would say contact me.
Let's hang out and talk about it.
Join my discord because you know, everyone who's collecting, photography's there.
Watch what's happening on Twitter.
Go to in real life events, try to meet people in person.
Study other photography projects.
Decide how you want to label your works.
How many you want to put in your collection?
I like to treat my collection like, hey, I'm having a fire, an art museum show.
So what are- what is the collection I'm exhibiting?
It's not going to be a hundred random photos from Justin's life.
It's going to be the serious projects I was taught in at school to create.
Like, when you go to art school for me, at least, or if you go to Yale, MFA, like you're taught to create a series.
And by that I mean like a cohesive narrative with a punctum, which is a small detail that bridges all the photos together.
If you read Roland Barthes camera obscure you'll really learn a lot about photography.
But what ties all these pictures together?
For me, it was the Twins, right?
And the subject brought it all together.
But in someone else's project, it could be a red handkerchief that's hanging in every image.
It's like small details, but this- these are the things you read and learn when you read that book.
So at the end of the day, it's like if you had a chance to have a museum show of a cohesive collection that tells a story, what is that, that you made and make that your collection.
And some people have 5, 10 different collections.
Some people might have 1.
It's just a matter of treating it like it's an exhibition.
And for instance, the image for the main image used to represent the collection should be called the flyer image.
Just like if you were printing a flyer and sending it to people.
Or handing out flyers for your art show.
It's like what images on that card?
It's like, that's- that's the title image.
For me it's the book cover image, because that's like what represents the project?
There's the duality, there's a surreality.
So it was natural to always use that one.
Tiffany: So that was- number 83 is the cover of your collection, which, you recently auctioned off at Christie's for over a million.
Which is crazy.
Over Ansel Adams.
Like I grew up looking at photos of Ansel Adams, because I used to do a lot of photography just because I wanted to capture my memories.
From there I did a lot of photography gigs in high school.
I Used to do a lot of photo shoots, concert shoots.
Like I just wanted to learn about photography and it was just a really fun passion for me.
I never saw it as a potential career.
Like I grew up not thinking that this could be a real career path, right?
But you've changed that, and you've helped photographers and artists around the world realize that they could actually do this as a career.
Especially with NFTs and royalties that are ongoing, right?
Like that changes the game entirely.
Justin: We've been fed the short end of the stick far too long.
We've been the starving artists far too long.
You know, I want to see billionaire artists, because the artists are always the people that will give back and make the world a better place.
Whether it's through their art for spirit or the cause that they're working towards.
You know, for me it's like, I try to be a philanthropist through all my work.
Through all the things, you know, the auctions I do.
I donated a hundred percent of my proceeds to an NFT charity to support other artists.
I donated half of the Christie sale to SaveArtSpace, to support other artists.
So it's like, for me, I want to keep reinvesting in artists because those are the people who are changing the world and uplifting the spirit of our consciousness.
Tiffany: And that's called building community.
You're not just trying to take in all the profit, which is what people previously did.
You are reinvesting most of it back in to the community.
Justin: Well, I would say first and foremost, pay your bills.
Pay your debt.
Buy a house if you can.
Everything after that, donate.
Give back and support.
Like, make sure you take care of yourself in a responsible, ethical way.
And then really utilize and reinvest, because we want to be in the abundance mindset.
Once you're in the scarcity mindset, you become a hoarder of wealth, and that's just not where we want to be in this time.
We want to create.
Tiffany: I love that.
Alexis: You're so right, man.
This flywheel and this abundance mindset and a positive sum mindset.
Seeing other people's success, not as less success in the world for your own is such a smart way to be, and it's going to mean amazing creativity.
It's not going to stop, but I think in particular, the next decade, we will see rapid, rapid expansion in a way that's going to feel compared to the last decade, mindblowing.
Nothing short of mind blowing in terms of creativity and artistry.
And you absolutely will see a billionaire artist in terms-
Tiffany: Wait, so can we define what- how do you define an artist actually?
Alexis: Man, I'm going to leave it to the artist.
Justin: I was going to say I was going to leave that one to you.
Lets start from the outside in.
Alexis: I mean, a culture creator.
Justin: It's a good one.
Alexis: I'm trying to paint broad strokes here, cause it could be a musician.
It could be-
Tiffany: It's very, very broad.
Alexis: It could be- I don't know what the right medium is going to be necessary.
Tiffany: Wait, does David Solomon count as a billionaire artists, because he goes- he's a DJ in his free time, and he's the CEO of Goldman Sachs.
Tiffany: During the day, yes!
Justin: Thats an entrepenuer.
Alexis: The billing has got to come from the full-time work has to be culture creation.
Tiffany: Full time artist, part-time billionare.
Justin: That's what I meant.
That's what I meant.
Like, if you're creating a painting or photos or sculpture music, and you make a billion off of that or whatever, like that's what we were talking about.
Not like, oh, I made money and I'm going to invest it, and now I have 2 billion because I invested.
Alexis: Yeah, a hundred percent agreed and that's going to happen in the next decade, so hang on.
And let's get fun with it.
Okay, Justin, you brought up the starving artist meme.
That was something Jack Conte, when he was founding Patreon, that was his thing was he was sick and tired of going to parties and having people be like, "What do you do?"
"Oh, I'm an artist or musician on YouTube," whatever, they'd be like, "Oh I'm so sorry."
Tiffany: It should be celebrated instead of that.
What this will do though, Justin, is think about it generationally too.
You're going to have little kids who when they're asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
And they're going to be able to say with confidence and conviction, "I'm going to be an artist."
The feedback loop they're going to get, it's not, "Well, you should probably have a backup plan, Johnny."
It's going to be, "Wow, that's awesome.
Like who inspires you?"
"What journey do you want to go down?"
It's going to start a conversation and not end it, and to have a generation who is wired to think that way, who already is immersed in a digital culture, understands this stuff.
Like almost on a biological level that, I don't- geriatric millennial over here.
And also empowered by that signal from society that actually says, yeah, that's a real career path will make a huge impact.
And think of the wealth of artistry and creativity that's going to come from that, because you have a generation that was not stunted, like every other previous one.
Those of y'all who adored and spent time since childhood doing- I mean, right?
How many people- the few people who gave you the encouragement to keep doing what you're doing, are unicorns.
I assume, Justin, I assume you've not had a bunch of people going to you like, "That is awesome.
I want to help!
How do I join?"
Justin: Now they do after I made it.
Alexis: Of course, but society does not make it easy for you all.
Justin: After you make it, make it, whatever that means.
Like, then everyone starts like pooling resources and helping you and just like, "Where were you two years ago?"
Alexis: Truth but just think- of course, those fires forged you and made you the artist you are.
But the macro is for the next 10- whatever.
Forever more, a little kid who wants to make art for a living is going to have way more doors opened than closed.
And that's a great thing.
Justin: Well, I will say this too.
A lot of good artists come out from being told no.
So, you know, I was lucky enough, you know, my mom really did everything she could to make sure I became an artist because she believed in me and, you know, I always did my best.
And she saw that this mattered to me, and this is the most important thing, and I was passionate about it.
And like, this is the only thing she ever saw me passionate about, like this and skateboarding.
So she was like completely supportive and then it finally became like authentically supportive one day.
And, and this was written in my Christie's essay where like she was diagnosed- she had cancer for a while and I was at the breakfast with my sister and her on celebrating my birthday.
And we had like a breakfast, and prior to that, the doctors had told her she shouldn't take her medicine anymore.
The cancer was gone.
And that year in 2013 I had photographed her for like the very last time I saw her for my birthday project.
And for that project, I photograph someone every day of the year on their birthday with a Polaroid without missing a day.
And when it came to January 16th, my mother's birthday, I photographed her.
And then from that point, it was her high point, like her highest point in her life, I think.
And then to the point where I met up with her in September, she had told me, like she had like two months to live.
And at that dinner, I was like, I'm done.
Like, I can't make anything.
I can't move.
Like I'm paralyzed.
I can't, I'm not going to be in to be able to finish this project.
And I was working at it for 10 months and like, she saw me.
And she's like, no, I'm going to find someone whose birthday it is in this restaurant right now.
Like I'm not letting you fail.
And she's never done that before.
And she found someone who was holding a birthday bag in that restaurant.
And she asked if I could take his photo and I took his photo.
And the beautiful thing about that, it was at this weird cow restaurant in lone island.
And it was a cow themed restaurant.
So I photographed this kid with a motorcycle cow, but the day before, and this is the beauty of creating something every day, because it creates meaning and it creates a narrative.
The day before I was in Brooklyn and Flatbush, and I photographed someone, I was walking around with a sign that says "Is it your birthday?"
every day for that whole year, cause I needed to find someone whose birthday it was.
I met this kid in front of this bull, like a cow bull, like on Brooklyn somewhere.
It was like a statue in Flatbush, off the G train somewhere near the park.
And I photographed him.
The cow imagery connected, but the day before I didn't realize what was going on until I looked back at both photos and was like, holy, this is connected in some weird way.
And for me it was a spiritual magical moment.
And that was the moment-
Alexis: The universe man.
Justin: The universe.
And that was the moment I realized, like she truly cares this isn't like a joke.
And you know, I did that project in her honor.
She passed away two days after her birthday.
And you know, it was, really hard for me, but that's the beauty of creating art.
You create those moments, you create those memories, you create those meaningful instances that touch- that change your life forever.
And you keep coming back to it.
And, you know, I'm able to share this, what, like that was in 2013.
So, I can share this eight years later and still feel that moment right now.
And that's what art does, and that's why it's so important to follow that.
Alexis: Thank you, Justin.
Thank you for sharing that.
We need more of that in this world.
Justin: Thank you for receiving it man.
It's just a story until I really share it.
Tiffany: You have a wonderful story.
I learned a lot in this past hour.
Justin: Well, I'm here if you guys ever want to hangout, you know, like let's take this offline, let's build the future.
Like this is what I'm here for.
Tiffany: Throw some billboards up guys.
Justin: Let's go!
Are you guys going to NFT NYC?
Alexis: Yeah, that would be dope.
Tiffany: Art Basel?
Justin: I'll be at both.
We're getting billboards.
Alexis is definitely going to your- you live there.
Alexis: Yeah, but I'll be at NFT NYC.
I'm doing this thing or something.
Justin: Hit me up dude.
You got my number now, so hit me up if you want to chill.
That'd be a blast, man.
It's just, it's wild to see this stuff and I still have whiplash every morning, and I'm hoping it's going to- I mean, okay, it can't slow down- for the love of god it needs to.
We just need better tools to kind of keep up with everything that is new and upcoming, because I try my best man.
Justin: Well what needs to slow down?
You mean the profile picture projects?
Alexis: No it doesn't.
I don't want- well, for sure, but like the rate at which there is something new to learn about or talk about or be impressed by- because even the subtleties of execution, right?
This is a canvas NFTs are- it's still the dumbest simplest version of the canvas.
And artists and creators are already trying to come up with really innovative approaches to doing it.
And yeah, the PFP is just one meme, but like, because it's such a new medium and everyone is sort of learning from everyone else in real time.
It's not like, right?
The rate at which it's going to evolve is so much faster than like a photographer: taking photos, developing, sharing techniques, talking, seeing a show, going across the world, seeing a new technique, bringing it back, like, because it is so digitally native, I mean, and the numbers attached to it are so remarkable-
Justin: And the means of communication are so much faster to.
Justin: Cause we're doing it on Twitter and Discord.
Alexis: I know, it breaks my heart none of it's on Reddit, but-
Justin: That's your job.
Alexis: I know we missed- that's a whole nother- we could do a whole lot of podcast.
But the vote that we missed on that one-
Justin: You didn't miss the boat it's still on the dock.
Tiffany: Ahem, islands.
Islands will fix that you guys.
Nah, Reddit's gone.
Alexis: No comment.
Justin: You had a good year last year with the bets thing- with the game- what's it called?
Alexis: Oh, wallstreetbets.
Justin: That was your moment bro.
Alexis: A whole nother camp.
Community is a magical inexplicable thing.
That is for sure.
Anyway, this is great, man.
Thank you so much.
I actually have to jump to another NFT related conversation.
So so stay tuned.