Can NFTs bring black archives into the future? –

The Obsidian collection aims to be Black’s Getty Images archive with a metaverse twist.

The goal of the Obsidian collection, which was founded in 2017, is to build an expansive view of black history, past and present, while helping to create generational richness for the photographers and fields it works with. by offering both commercial licenses and, now, NFTs. That means not only trying to seek out photographs from famous photographers like John Tweedle, who Obsidian worked with, but also trying to connect with people like Howard D. Simmons, a photographer who worked with the Chicago Sun-Times and Ebony.

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“A lot of times the images that mainstream institutions post have a pretty negative narrative, a lot of poverty and pain,” Angela Ford, executive director of the Obsidian Collection, said in an interview with ART news. “It’s not the sum total of our existence.”

Jointly celebrating Juneteenth and the NFT.NYC conference festivities, the Obsidian Collection this week announced a partnership with Lobus, an artists’ equity firm that developed its blockchain services. Their first outing together, a collection of 15 NFTs of John Tweedle’s photographs of Martin Luther King, Jr. during his visit to Chicago in 1966, premiered last Sunday.

For Ford, the advantage of NFTs lies in their potential to generate funding for artists.

“Decentralized technology allows all revenue generated today or in the future to go directly to the owners of these archives,” Ford said. “It gives the Diaspora the economic power as well as the healing power directly to these owners and their descendants. It’s empowering.

She also said that NFTs allow her to tap into a specific collector base, a point commonly made by space proponents.

“This technology also engages a powerful community,” said Lobus co-founder Lori Hotz, referring not only to NFT collectors, but also to a younger generation of internet users.

Ford described plans to create a Getty-like portal for black images before adjusting his vision to be more forward-thinking. After all, today’s circulation of images online hardly depends on commercial licensing. In Ford’s view, black creators have been at the forefront of the creator economy and are poised to benefit from the Web3 shift.

“Black people have always thrived in a decentralized environment, without the heavy hands of guidance and oversight,” Ford said.

At the same time, much of Ford’s work involves working with an older generation as they attempt to build Obsidian’s image archive while explaining these Web3 strategies.

During a dinner hosted by Lobus and the Obsidian Collective at the Harlem Red Rooster restaurant, Ford recounted a conversation she had with a photographer.

“He was over 75, he’s never been married and had no children, but he has over 100,000 images he’s taken in his lifetime and he wants people to see them. see,” Ford said over the dinner. “He said, ‘Look, I don’t care if my second cousin can make money off of this. What he wanted was for his story to be told.

By word of mouth, Ford has tried to find these oldtimers who have seen so much history. The Obsidian Collective will host select images, such as images of airmen from Tuskagee and Ru-Jac Charm School, Chicago’s black label school, that were not previously widely available. In this way, Ford’s new venture will become a means of preserving history.

“These are images that haven’t been seen for decades, literally 40 to 80 years, because they haven’t been digitized,” Ford said. “If we don’t pass on this information in the future, it will be lost.”

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