Millionaire with selfies: Where does the NFT hype come from?

How a fun project with self-portraits made an Indonesian IT student rich in just a few weeks.

At the age of 18, Indonesian IT student Sultan Gustaf Al Ghozali started taking a selfie of himself every day. For the next four years, he photographed himself every day. Always in front of the computer and always with the same expressionless face. Originally, he had planned to use the resulting portraits to create a time-lapse video that would show every day from the beginning to the end of his studies. In the end, the student made 933 selfies.

But in the meantime, something had happened that would thoroughly change his project: During the course of his studies, Sultan Gustaf Al Ghozzali had been studying cryptocurrencies, blockchains and so-called NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens - German: nicht ersetzbare Wertmarken). Put simply, NFTs are unique digital tokens that are uniquely identifiable. For example, an NFT can be "minted" from a digital photo. Here, the image is stored in a blockchain. This is organized in a decentralized manner and is therefore forgery-proof. A certain NFT hype had developed among the technology-friendly photography scene.

The one-million-euro joke 

On Jan. 1, 2022, Ghozali created the Ghozali Everyday collection on the NFT marketplace as a joke, minting 933 NFTs from his selfies. "I thought it would be funny if one of the collectors collected my face," Ghozali says. "I never thought anyone would want to buy the selfies, which is why I set my price per NFT at three dollars."

After a few weeks, Indonesian celebrity chef Arnold Poernomo came across the collection, and other celebrity NFT collectors also took notice of Ghozali's "joke." The collection went viral and Ghozali's selfie NFTs were bought and sold more and more. As a result, their value kept increasing as well. Currently, the trading volume of the entire collection of 933 selfies is over one million euros.

Profit sharing on resale

Ghozali not only earned from the initial sales of his selfies. He now earns money on every resale. That's because when minting an NFT, anyone can set a "creator fee" of up to ten percent - in other words, a share for the NFT creator in all future sales. For artists, the digital market therefore has a decisive advantage: if one becomes famous during one's lifetime, not only the art dealers and speculators profit from this, but also the creator of the photos himself.

Where does the NFT hype come from?                                                                                         

The current hype surrounding NFTs can be explained primarily by the fact that digital goods can be made unique through this technology. This means that they can be traded in the same way as on the analog art market. However, they are not paid for in dollars or euros, but with cryptocurrency.

Ghozali's selfie collection shows that speculation on this new, digital art marketplace is similar to its analog counterpart. What art is and what value it has cannot be easily determined and fixed. If a lot is written and reported about an artist, the value of his works also increases.

Editor's Tip:

Curious? "NFT - New Source of Income for Photo Artists?" - in our next "Creative Talk", the new audio series in our community area PHOTOPIA 365, we bring NFT's and other topics around imaging to your ears as well. Listen in!

Source: © Sultan Gustaf Al Ghozali