The world’s oldest news service, Agence France-Presse (AFP), is teaming up with NFT platform LaCollection to mint and sell NFTs of press images from its storied archives. The partnership represents AFP’s first foray into the NFT field, with the goal of capturing new audiences and buyers. “The growing community of crypto-collectors and blockchain technology,” noted Marielle Eudes, Director of Photo Special Projects at AFP, “are now paving the way for new ways of engaging with art, culture, and heritage.”

What’s happening

AFP x LaCollection NFTs

The first NFTs from AFP include Brendan Smialowski’s viral photograph of senator Bernie Sanders at Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 2021. Image: Brendan Smialowski / AFP

For its first drop, titled Ephemerality to Iconicity, AFP has prepped three NFTs, namely its first dispatch in 1944 and “two iconic images from the news of the last decade.” They include a photograph by Philippe Wojazer of French icon Serge Gainsbourg burning a 500 franc note on live television in 1984, a stunt he pulled to protest high taxes; and another by Brendan Smialowski of US senator Bernie Sanders bundled up and seated at Joe Biden’s inauguration, an image that birthed a season’s worth of memes.

The three digital editions, in addition to 200 art prints from AFP’s collection, will be exhibited at Ellia Art Gallery in Paris from October 26 to November 5. Right after, the NFTs will be sold at an auction in the gallery and online at Drouot. In addition to the NFT, buyers will receive a signed premium print of the image depicted on the token, and an invite to participate in a private discussion with photographers Wojazer and Smialowski, as well as an exclusive tour of AFP’s archives.

Funds generated from the sale will support the restoration and preservation of AFP’s collection. Pre-registration is already open. The AFP is lining up more NFTs in its future too: on LaCollection, the public will be asked to cast votes to pick 10 photographs for upcoming digital edition sales.

Why it matters

AFP x LaCollection NFTs

“The growing community of crypto-collectors and blockchain technology are now paving the way for new ways of engaging with art, culture, and heritage,” said AFP’s Marielle Eudes. Image: Philippe Wojazer / AFP

AFP is but the latest photography service or company to reimagine its archives for the blockchain. In January, the Associated Press became the first news agency to launch its own NFT marketplace on Xooa to sell selections from its 175-year-strong catalog, before Magnum Photos unveiled its first NFT collection in June. OneOf is also in the midst of dropping historic photographs, featuring the likes of Marilyn Monroe and David Bowie, culled from the archives of Globe Entertainment and Media.

They’re entering the space as photography NFTs continue to slowly but steadily grow as a segment. Projects such as Where My Vans Go and Justin Aversano’s Twin Flames, in particular, have been leading in both popularity and market value. Then again, most photography NFT collections aren’t going to fetch Bored Ape prices. Rather, these projects have carved niches, and built active and passionate communities — as the Digital Archive has done with its release of Lawrence Horn photographs — that are likely more eager to collect than to flip. 

Which goes to Eudes’ stated aim of reaching new collectors. The word is still out if there might be a vibrant secondary market for NFTs by photography agencies or companies (particularly in this economy). But as part of an audience or engagement play, such ventures do the job of bringing these historic photography archives into the age of Web3.

What they said

“This partnership is a nice way to bring together a new generation of collectors and art gallery regulars, to put this new ‘NFT space’ at the service of a photographic heritage that is more than a hundred years old, and to do so in a simple way (in euros) and accessible to all.” — ​​Fabrice Fries, CEO, Agence France-Presse


NFTs & Digital Art Projects