Artist name: Justin Aversano
Location: Los Angeles
Date minted first NFT: Feb. 15, 2021
Which blockchains? Ethereum
Unintentionally, the healing process of losing his twin sister at birth sparked Justin Aversano’s career to become the poster child for NFT photography. His most famous collection, “Twin Flames,” has 5,900 ETH in total sales volume on OpenSea and multiple million-dollar sales, including one auctioned at Christie’s.
A multidisciplinary artist with a great eye and passion for photography, Aversano’s journey into NFTs started with a trip to Peru to work with local shamans to try to get over an addiction and depression. It was on that trip that he started to heal and found a spark that would become the initial idea for his iconic collection.
“I never questioned that I was an artist, but you know the feeling inside when you’re grappling with anger, depression, sadness and grief. I was looking to outgrow the grief and become whole. In San Pedro, there was a ceremony run by twins. It really opened my heart to connecting with my twin, who passed during my mom’s pregnancy. It felt like opening Pandora’s box. I remember thinking, ‘Okay, there’s something there, and I need to work on it.’”
A few months removed from San Pedro, Aversano was at an exhibition and photographed a pair of twins who came to his art show. That night, he knew he was ready to take on this new project spotlighting twins.
“I just started with those twins that night. They then introduced me to other twins. It became a whole domino effect of connecting with twins. Understanding the feeling of what it would have been like to have a twin and honoring my twin, and also my mother, because I feel like losing my twin was also part of losing my mom and her getting ovarian cancer,” he says.
“There are so many different elements, and a lot of my art is for my mom, my family and honoring ancestors. I like it when you’re working in healing,” Aversano shares.
Despite putting together the Twin Flames project in a traditional sense, including a book and an exhibition highlighting the work, it wasn’t until Aversano discovered NFTs that things got crazy.
“Another two years passed by. I had the Twin Flames project on my website and Instagram, but then I discovered NFTs. I didn’t see other photography projects online. I minted Twin Flames, and the next day it sold out — and changed my life.”
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Now, just two years from his first mint, Aversano —who is considered by most to be at the top of the NFT photography food chain — has amassed over 8,100 ETH in sales volume on OpenSea alone.
Aversano is also carrying the torch for budding photographers who want to pivot their creative endeavors to the world of NFTs with Quantum Art, a platform focused on curating and dropping NFT collections launched in September 2021, with a particular focus on photography NFTs.
“With Quantum, I’ve said this from the beginning: I want it to be what Art Blocks is for generative art. I have so much respect for Erick (Snowfro) with what he has done with Art Blocks, and we want the same for photography. There’s so much respect for generative art, and I can understand that because everyone’s computer native. I’d love to see photography get its heyday because it’s always been the underdog,” Aversano states.
Twin Flames #49. Alyson and Courtney Aliano: Sold for 888 ETH ($3.7 million at the time) on Nov. 23, 2021, making it the eighth most expensive photograph ever sold. Purchased via PartyBid.
Twin Flames #83. Bahaeeh and Farzaneh: Sold for $1.1 million on Oct. 6, 2021 at Christie’s.
Twin Flames #2. Jessica and Joyce Gayo: Sold for 207 ETH ($959,027) on Nov. 10, 2021.
Twin Flames #1. Ali and Gilli Glatt: Sold for 200 ETH ($686,696) on Sept. 7, 2021.
Aversano cites the influence of photographers like Irving Penn, David LaChapelle, Diane Arbus, Vivian Maier and Robert Frank, as well as painters like Alex Gray and Dustin Yellin.
He is inspired by all NFT photographers but gives a special shout-out to Beeple: “That guy is the biggest influence on everyone!”Beeple’s Everydays: Bull Run, Day #4951 from Nov. 19, 2020. Source: OpenSea
Aversano also highlights the influence of prominent NFT personality Gmoney on his rise to NFT stardom.
“In terms of collectors, Gmoney was one of the biggest influences on my life. We spoke a bit, and I asked him if he was spending $250,000 on a monkey JPG, would he buy real art? He said to me he’d rather buy NFTs. He helped me by talking to Flamingo DAO and the CryptoPunks community. They all supported me with my NFT drops,” he says.
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Which artist should we be paying attention to?
In regard to other artists in the space catching his attention, Aversano notes IX Shells, a sound and visual artist whose piece Bend was recently acquired by the Buffalo AKG Art Museum: “She’s one of my favorite artists. She’s cool as a person and artist.”
He also notes Summer Wagner, a photographer based out of Rockford, Illinois.In The Fullness of Time by IX Shells. Source: Twitter
Process and personal style:
Talking about how his artwork develops over time, Aversano says, “Every project I’ve been thinking about has been thought about for years. There’s nothing I’ve created and thought of minting an NFT the next day. I’ve been working on these major projects for years, and it hasn’t existed in the art world as I wanted it to.”Smoke and Mirrors #78, featuring two pairs of twins: Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss and Duncan and Griffin Cock Foster. Source: OpenSea
“This is the best time in my life as an artist of this era — for everything that I create to be an NFT. I see a lot of other artists who have careers that are older than mine, and they’re getting into NFTs, and not all their stuff is on the blockchain. This is the perfect time for me as an artist to have all my art on the blockchain from the beginning.”
“I often think about minting art as NFTs like hand printing on ancient scrolls on the blockchain. It brings the past, present and future together in a special way, and you can live in your digital gallery in your own home,” he concludes.
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Greg Oakford is the co-founder of NFT Fest Australia. A former marketing and communications specialist in the sports world, Greg now focuses his time on running events, creating content and consulting in web3. He is an avid NFT collector and hosts a weekly podcast covering all things NFTs.Follow the author @GregOakford