Taking Photos and Minting NFTs at the Ends of the Earth, With FOTO’s John Knopf

The world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has opened up new avenues for experimentation and creativity for photographers. However, it took some time for “photography NFTs” to catch on among collectors and creators. Among the early adopters of NFTs was John Knopf, an Emmy Award-nominated landscape photographer for National Geographic. Initially, he saw crypto as a way to make a quick buck, but he eventually became enamored with the potential of distributed networks. Collaborating with seven other photographers, including Alejandro Cartagena, Ben Strauss, Cath Simard, Dave Krugman, Isaac “Drift” Wright, J.N. Silva, and Ravi Vora, Knopf founded FOTO, a collective geared toward training artists to work in Web3. Today, FOTO boasts hundreds of members, comprising both amateur and professional artists. Knopf curates members’ art for exhibitions at sponsored galleries and events, with the aim of elevating digital art.

In a conversation with CoinDesk ahead of Consensus 2022, Knopf shared his thoughts on the NFT bear market, pricing artwork, and the early days of the Bored Ape community. He noted that the crypto conference circus has changed significantly during the bear market, becoming more cutthroat as it focuses more on trading. Nevertheless, Knopf has been indulging in the crypto scene and has had some wild stories during his time in it. For example, he sold a Bored Ape NFT and ended up profiting over $1 million, but there was a catch. The buyer accidently sent Knopf 230 ETH instead of retracting his original bid on the ape NFT, leading to a funny but fortuitous interlude.

Knopf reflected on his involvement in the Bored Ape community as well, recalling how he helped raise awareness of the Apes long before they became popular. Nowadays, the Bayc is regarded as one of the most important NFT communities, with their digital ape anime consistently providing value. He discussed how the NFT community has evolved over time, becoming more toxic and competitive as liquidity has dried up. Nevertheless, Knopf praised the community he helped establish at FOTO, noting that it offers a space for artists to collaborate and elevate each other’s work.

As a self-taught photographer, psychonaut, and fun-loving guy, Knopf represents the type of creative energy that has found a new home in the world of NFTs. For photographers in particular, the blending of artistic sensibility and technology offers unique opportunities for experimentation and growth. While the NFT market may have its downsides, Knopf’s story demonstrates that with a little bit of courage, humor, and entrepreneurial spirit, the potential rewards can be significant.


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