Putting Stephen Hawking Into the Metaverse With Photographer David Gamble

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BeinCrypto spoke to photographer and artist David Gamble about his first non-fungible token (NFT) release, his famous picture of Stephen Hawking. He discusses putting the image on the blockchain and heading into the NFT metaverse.

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Much of the NFT space is dominated by young, unknown artists. While there are big names in the space, like Damien Hirst, most marketplaces are filled with NFT art natives.

Gamble is among the former, established artists joining this new wave. He is a well-known photographer with decades of experience, he is bringing this history with him to the blockchain.

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Gamble’s photographs were featured in major publications like Life and the New Yorker. In a time when print magazines were still bought, kept, and collected.

With the minting of his Stephen Hawking portrait, Gamble is bringing his 1988 work to a new generation and to a new medium for photographers.

Bringing Hawking to NFTs

Gamble, a man intent on moving with the times, was contacted by Morphy to gauge his interest in tokenizing this iconic image for Hawking.

“If you’re going to have a hero of science for the 21st century. He has to be Stephen Hawking. There’s nobody else.”

As Gamble puts it, he’s only giving the crypto world “one of their God.” Only one edition of this print has been minted.

“I could pretty easily print Hawking out 10,000 times and send him 10,000 times. I didn’t want to do that with that picture. Instead, I said, okay, I’m going to give you one Hawking, my Hawking, the one that counts, historically. If you want him, you can have that. I have no interest in making more than one,” he says.

The auction went live on October 5 on OpenSea with a minimum big of 15 WETH. Alongside the tokenized image, the top bidder also has access to an uncut interview with Gamble about the photograph and its creation.

Photographing Hawking

The picture taken by Gamble was initially commissioned to accompany a profile on the famed scientist in Time magazine. It subsequently became the image Hawking used for his book jacket for “A Short History of Time.”

Credit: David Gamble

“I caught him in a moment. Sometimes in life, there’s pictures that you photograph, you can catch somebody just to that right moment which we will refer back to forever.”

For Gamble, he sees this image as the defining image of Hawking. The image that people think of when discussing the scientist.

The composition of the picture lends itself to this mythic height. Gamble explains that he intended to center Hawking among the history of science and progress.

“I connected him to the history of physics. Behind him is an inverted picture of Einstein. And behind his chair, which some clever University person figured out, was an engraved picture of Isaac Newton. So you have Isaac Newton, Einstein, Hawking. So the lineage of history and physics are actually in the picture,” he explains.

NFTs and instrinsic value

For Gamble, who has had an eye on the crypto space for a while, NFTs bring intrinsic value for collectors. He sees his picture as a physical asset, something a person can own rather than store solely in a wallet. In addition, it is something that lives beyond its creator.

“So people can say I don’t really want to keep all my money in my currencies. I want to own something that I can just own. Then when I need to sell it, it will have an intrinsic value. I think that’s what’s happening with NFTs. That’s the hard thing for the art world outside to understand.”

“I think the crypto world has a different idea about what they perceive as valuable, compared to traditional institutional people. So in a sense, I’m not expecting my name or reputation to mean anything because it doesn’t mean anything in the crypto world. Stephen Hawking can become something. Stephen Hawking can have that value because he’s so recognizable across the world,” he explains.

A bridge between the past and future

This expression of history is apparent in both the work itself and by Gamble moving into the NFT space.

He sees the introduction of a man to the next generation of scientific and technological innovation as a bridge between time.

“He tried to give the common man the understanding of Einstein’s theory and black holes and all the stuff. I think that’s why I believe Stephen Hawking would exist perfectly in the crypto world for the next few centuries because people will recognize that he’s a times capsule. You can look at Hawking as the lineage of humanity in science. Which is crucial,” he explains.

“So in a sense, this [NFT] is a visual reference for the future. Within the world that we know is going to exist in next 100 years.”

Looking forward to artistic growth

For Gamble himself, the NFT presents an opportunity to expand his creative medium.

As an artist and photographer who began his work in the time of analog, he is not a stranger to updating and experimenting with what has come next.

“Some artists can only speak one language, which is fine, but they never move on from that, and they have their moment. I always believe that I always needed to keep learning new visual languages. That was my biggest fear in the whole of my career, not being able to learn new visual languages because I never wanted to stay in one place,” he explains.

“Everything is about a continuity of experience in learning and understanding what my mind can actually create. That’s why I’ve created these new pictures through NFT.”

Gamble describes this artistic journey as a series of hills. He sees no point in sitting at the top of a mountain, instead finding enjoyment in meeting the next challenge.

“This, in a sense, is what the NFT world is to me. It’s a new journey. It’s a new place to go and see where, where you end up.”

Alongside his photo of Hawking, Gamble has already created digital artworks called the “Q Series,” which are also up on OpenSea.

A maturing field of art

Overall, Gamble sees NFT artworks as an emerging medium. One that may be exploding commercially but is finding its feet artistically.

He sees the dichotomy between what s available to artists in the digital realm in terms of visual effect and the need for these additions.

“There’s a lot of interesting ideas, you know, with moving images and creating GIFs. I’ve deliberately not wanted to do that because of the purity of my images, the purity of the narrative that I created back in ’87. I think a lot of NFT artists have to understand; do these things if they really mean something. But don’t do it for a fad or just because you think it is a great commercial idea to be able to sell the work,” he explains.

“Forget about being commercial, only be true to the art that you want to make, and then let other people make those judgments.”

“Only do things in a very pure, articulate way that actually means something to you. Don’t get involved with trying to please others. That’s the important thing,” he says.

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After working in news and lifestyle journalism, Leila decided to bring her interest in cryptocurrencies and blockchain to her day job. She now runs the Features and Opinions desk at BeinCrypto which fits perfectly with her enthusiasm for crypto's social and political impact.

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