Please note that the following review is not an endorsement of purchasing the NFTs discussed, and the author does not themself own any of the collection.
Photography has become one of the cornerstones of the NFT space, ranking as a discrete category on the largest NFT marketplace OpenSea alongside collectables, music and virtual worlds. The attraction of NFTs to photographers is obvious. While there is a clear appetite for viewing photos (the most popular photo-sharing site, Instagram, sees 1.22 billion users per month), typically photographers are not paid anything for attracting views – instead needing to enter into partnerships and act as influencers. Other digital avenues like selling photos to stock photography sites do bring in direct money, but typically that’s measured in cents.
NFTs are shaking up the photography landscape by representing an avenue by which photographs can sell for significant amounts, thanks to the digital form of scarcity that NFTs have pioneered. And thanks to smart contracts, artists can also benefit from royalties for every onwards sale. With that in mind, we’re turning our attention today to an NFT collection known as Color Block Party from established photographer, Yener Torun.
The Turhal, Turkey-born Torun is known for his flat, geometric compositions of minimalist buildings. Torun is a trained architect, having studied at Istanbul Technical University before starting a photography project in 2014 – his time studying architecture clearly an influence on the choice of subject for his photographs. Before selling his work as NFTs, Torun found success exhibiting his creation on Instagram, where his images have attracted 166,000 followers. His works have also been licensed by Google as official Android wallpapers.
Color Block Party is Yener’s first foray into NFTs, with the collection minted in September 2021. The collection of 30 photographs draws from across his portfolio, with most of his images featuring buildings from his adopted hometown of Istanbul. Yener’s collection is composed of work from the earlier part of his career, consisting of non-commercial photos published between 2015 and 2019 – a choice which he said is down to making the collection more coherent.
As he told The Modern Analogue, “It all started as a hobby, but within no time it became a passion. I finally felt like I had found something that gave free rein to my creative urges and helped me express myself through what I create – without any restrictions or the instructions and expectations of others. I let myself be influenced by all the things I like – music, painting, cinema, graphic design, popular culture, and even architecture itself. Then I turned those influences into something new and unique. Since then, I have spent a lot of time on the streets and on the computer honing my photography and editing skills to express myself in the best way possible.”
Thanks to the pastel colours, symmetrical framing and flat compositions, Yener’s works are highly reminiscent of the work of director Wes Anderson. A recurring theme in the collection is windows, their own uniformity reflecting and informing the buildings as a whole.
According to Yener’s description of the collection, “Yener’s compositions typically flatten space and emphasize lines and colours over depth. He transforms the urban landscape by reinterpreting architecture as geometric abstraction, creating an alternate reality by removing architectural elements from their original environment and repurposing them.”
It’s worth remarking on the fact that, while the images give off a distinct sense of spontaneity, they are highly edited, as the artist has revealed via before and after comparisons. He told the Guardian: “I increase the brightness and saturation to create a heightened sense of reality, which tricks the viewer into questioning what is real and what is not.” Alongside that is extensive digital recomposing and recolourisation, all to produce an effect that seems to return imperfect real-world buildings to an idealised design stage.
Further asserting the sense that the point is not to valourise the buildings depicted within the photographs is the fact that no geographical information is contained within the NFTs themselves. Each image comes only with a short title, often a wry reference to what the photograph depicts (WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS for an example prominently featuring the colour yellow, for instance), though three go without a title at all. The overall effect is to transform these real locations into surreal and stylised glimpses of the urban spaces the majority of us live in.
The medium of photography in general is well suited to the digital world of NFTs. By serving as a more equitable means of buying and selling art, NFTs are bringing in established photographers as well as inspiring others to take up their cameras for the first time. Yener’s collection, meanwhile, is especially well suited to the culture of NFT art and its fondness for hyperreal, digitally abstracted versions of the world.
- June 13, 2022