When Technology inspires Art
Variation 4 on The Cube By HRH Princess Reem Al-Faisal. Courtesy of artist.
HRH Princess Reem Al-Faisal
In his discussion with Interview magazine, artist David Hockney said that “technology and art go together—and always have, for centuries.”
Technology and art have always intermingled with one another and have had a symbiotic relationship. Former Pixar CEO John Lasseter’s philosophy on this ever-evolving relationship is that “art challenges technology and technology inspires art.”
The result of one of the latest technological advances within the artistic sphere is the appearance of Non-fungible Tokens, or NFTs. NFTs have provided unique opportunities for established and rising artists alike to showcase their work and reach all new audiences.
To help introduce me to this brave new world of NFTs, I arranged a phone interview with Her Royal Highness Princess Reem Mohammad Al-Faisal, who has been a long-standing fixture in the Saudi artistic scene, and a Saudi pioneer in NFTs, to discuss how it is changing how we interact with and view art.
Q1. How did you begin your journey as an artist?
Photographers, much like artists in general, start by coincidence. I started taking photographs after my brother gifted me his camera— I became hooked to the camera and I was photographing everything and everyone. That was my start as a photographer, but I only started taking it seriously when I got a bit older and was in university.
Q2. So you felt like your family was encouraging you along your path to becoming a photographer?
For sure! My parents— God rest their souls— were always cheering me on. My mother was an intellectual and had a great appreciation for art in general. And actually, my father was an amateur photographer. He absolutely loved taking photographs and developing them himself.
He was a connoisseur of photography and was even a critic. Unfortunately, my father was busy traveling for work and I didn’t get to spend much time with him in his dark room.
Q3. So, you inherited your passion for photography from him?
Yes, he was actually quite surprised that I took it up myself without seeing him in action.
Q4. What is an NFT? Can it be seen as a sketch or type of art?
In technical terms, the NFT, to make it simple, is a digital contract between the artist and buyer, one that cannot be falsified or broken. The NFT is basically a signature to preserve and verify the authenticity of your artwork.
So, an NFT is many things, one of them can be sketching. It is an entire technology and cultural revolution. It’s the art of the Metaverse!
Q5. What drew you to picking NFT as your next endeavor? What is the relationship between photography and NFTs?
I have always been fascinated by crypto-currency and blockchain technology and I have a startup IT company, which I founded two years ago. We develop IT solutions for blockchain technology for companies in all fields. So, I’ve always been investing in and reading about crypto-currency and different technologies.
When I first started studying up on NFTs, I found it very simple and quite organic to make the move. Since I’ve done it before;
I went from film photography to digital photography and now NFTs are just another medium for me to get into.
For photographers, in general, it’s very easy to transform our work into NFTs since it is already digitized.
Q6. How do you sketch out your idea from conception to the creation of NFTs?
As a photographer, all I do is transfer my photography into JPEGs and from that into NFTs. Whether it’s on the Ethereum or Polygon or Algorand blockchain. The change isn’t in my photography or my creative process, it’s in how I exhibit and how I deal with the public. It’s a totally different medium.
My choice was to go with Ethereum since it’s the most common and safest. However it’s the most expensive.
Q7. What is the difference between those three blockchains you mentioned?
Just a difference in the technology of the blockchain itself and in the minting process, making it more or less expensive. For example, Ethereum has very high gas fees and Algorand doesn’t have any.
Q8. How many NFTs have you minted and sold? How much do they typically go for?”
I created over 100 NFTs up to now and I keep creating new ones every few days. I have sold over 30 on different platforms. The average price is 1.5 Etherium.
Q9. And what type of themes or stories do you typically explore in them?”
My stories are inspired by my photography. I currently have three collections: Makkah and Madinah, Only the Lonely, and Humanity Large and Small.”
Q10. What do you believe the future of art is? What kind of art will there be in 2030, for example?
Platforms like the Metaverse will enable the growth of interactive art and make it more dynamic in different ways. But that doesn’t mean this will cancel out the physical world and traditional art.
It’s like an extension of the physical world—like traditional art before the existence of cameras.
For years, some people didn’t acknowledge photography as an art form and the same can be said about their view on NFTs.
Q11. You are a famous photographer; did you stop taking photographs or will you remain a professional photographer as well?
I won’t ever stop photography. The NFT is just a way for me to exhibit it. It’s just a part of the journey.
Q12. What’s your next big project?
I’m in the process of compiling a photography book on Saudi Arabia and its various provinces.
Q13. I’ll definitely be looking forward to that!”
Q14. What motto do you live by?
I don’t have a motto. (Laughs) Just live life, that’s my motto!
Q15. What advice would you give aspiring photographers or artists hoping to get into NFTs?
Study. Study your craft, study NFTs, study the history of art and your own culture—Be authentic to your own culture. Practice a lot.
After this enlightening conversation with HRH Princess Reem, it has become very evident how well-suited art can be, especially her chosen discipline of photography, to NFTs. It appears to be a natural next step for many artists whose work lends seamlessly to digital spaces.
Therefore, with the emergence of these spaces, which foster endless possibilities for creativity and exposure,
there is no doubt that we’ll be seeing art and technology intertwine further to bring us more updated versions of the “Art of the Metaverse.”
After all, much like Lasseter’s and Hockney’s comments on art and technology, there has always been a synergetic relationship between the two, resulting in endless multi-dimensional creative possibilities.