Brittany Pierre was living in Chicago in 2020, living pay-check-to pay-check as a photographer and ducking the pandemic. She had difficulty paying her rent, groceries and even carfare.
A colleague suggested the 36-year old explore using NFTs to build her business not on online but in the expanding metaverse. The rest is a strange success story that is still in the process of being told.
Pierre says she has profited sufficiently from her new approach to spend time helping other content creators get on track. By displaying and selling their work on a blockchain, or decentralized distribution and transaction system, Pierre believes more creators can achieve success. Most of her knowledge came from online sources and speaking to people who have already minted NFTs.
Pierre generated $109,000 in sales last year, enough to help her establish a viable career, more lucrative than those built by most YouTubers.
Initially, like many, she wasn’t entirely sure what an NFT was.
“I dove straight in, just doing a YouTube and a Google deep dive for a couple of days,” reports CNBC who broke the story about her.
One month later, Pierre started to sell her first NFTs and was soon getting a few hundred dollars each — more than her physical art earned her. She also learned about NFTs from fellow artist and educator, Elise Swopes, who has almost 30,000 followers on Twitter.
Colleagues and people online helped Pierre understand the NFT world, a generosity of spirit she seeks to replicate. After she was invited into one of the marketplaces, her first NFT sold in May 2021 for about $250. Her work ranges from streetscapes featuring textured details of buildings to portraits and black-and-white scenes and illustrations.
Now her work is displayed on OpenSea, the leading NFT marketplace. Not just photos but other visuals, including graphic images and potential avatars.
Since starting to sell her work on a blockchain, she’s been profiled in a recent CNBC story highlighting how she was able to generate more than $100K her first year. She admits her business has grown larger as a result of the publicity. Media and social media clearly has played a role in her success, even though NFTs represent a circumventing of traditional web platforms, like Facebook and YouTube.
It helps to be a photographer a keen eye and an image creator, whose work is timely and can generate interest, but until Pierre learned how NFTs can work for creators, she was not getting much traction. Still, it may not work for all creators in every medium.
“That is one thing about this space: If you have a question, somebody is going to answer it”
Minting an NFT, the process of representing the asset on the blockchain, allows owners to both prove that they own the asset and be able to sell it if they want to. To mint an NFT, creators must pay a ‘gas fee’, which can cost hundreds of dollars during times of high congestion.
With the help of a few friends, Pierre was invited to Foundation, an NFT marketplace in March 2021 by another artist who helped raise funds to pay Pierre’s gas fees for her first couple of pieces so she could
mint her work. Foundation is a platform that “aims to build a new creative economy—a world where creators can use the Ethereum blockchain to value their work in entirely new ways, and build stronger connections with their supporters.”
While some people are getting rich off NFTs, Matt Medved, a founder of nft now, a digital media publication about NFT, told The New York Times recently, he advises people to remember that many other NFT projects lose value over time.
“You should never invest any more money than you are willing to lose,” he said. “The NFT space, like the crypto space, is very volatile, and the markets go up and down very quickly.
“I do think a lot of NFTs will end up going to zero in the long run,” he said. “Your success [as an investor] depends on your ability to pick the best projects, and that isn’t easy.” Similarly, success as a creator has a great deal to do with content and timing.
Helping Each Other
The process of onboarding and helping fellow artists is common in the NFT and wider web3 community. “That is one thing about this space.” says Pierre. “If you have a question, somebody is going to answer it.”
She sees cryptocurrency and NFTs as a way to build generational wealth, since they allow her to invest and earn money without dealing with traditional financial systems.
“I definitely think that not only NFTs, but crypto in general, can help marginalized people, especially the Black community,” she says.
Delinda Collier, a professor of art history, theory and criticism and interim dean of graduate studies at the School of the Art Institute, told the Chicago Tribune recently that NFTs have increased opportunities for artists to control the outcomes of their work and have contracts and contractual relationships be more transparent.
Changing the Balance of Power
“My hope is that NFTs can change the balance of power in the art world to benefit artists to the extent that artists can have more control over the sales and ownership of their intellectual property,” she said.
Pierre’s work for sale on OpenSea can be found here.
Pierre’s Instagram page has more than 3,000 followers.
Image source: Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune; CNBC.com