From cinematic and digital portfolios to the endless scroll of social media, photography has long fueled our imaginations, evolving at the pace of our technology while helping us distill a timeless version of reality.
Remember to flip through your camera roll. Colors, faces, passing landscapes. Photos have the power to transport you. And yet, the destination remains two-dimensional, regardless of the number of pixels or the mastery of the composition. Then imagine the reality-altering effect of a photo – and the memory it evokes – that you could visit and revisit in its entirety.
Although highly speculative in its specifics, the metaverse shattered our understanding of interactive media, raising an existential question about the definition of photography itself. I’ve spent my career finding new ways to capture those special moments and creating software tools that help others do the same. Almost 30 years after my first gig, I’ve never been more excited about how technology is reinventing what we are capable of. While the internet and the rise of photo-sharing apps have accelerated the creation and consumption of photographs, the metaverse has already begun to disrupt its mechanics.
Freed from the limitations of past devices or even the laws of physics, photography in the Metaverse unlocks a previously unimaginable freedom to explore light, color, perspective, and output. In a culture of content creators embracing the Web 2.0 “move fast, break things” fallout, this new digital frontier offers an opportunity to ask ourselves: how can we reclaim visual storytelling in a way that promotes the connection ? What rules of artistic ethics will have to be rewritten? If we had to do it again, what would we do better?
Metaverse photography will unleash a new creative category
Photography can and will become more than the still images we exchange today. With sound-embedded 3D layers (even smell), metaverse photography will enable perception beyond the eyes, forging a new category of art, a new kind of sensory experience.
This pivot to immersive imagery is evident in groundbreaking creators like REO, which combined skills in photography and digital art to produce non-fungible products, distort the genres to work.
It’s hard to fully conceptualize the creative possibilities at such early stages of the metaverse, but think, for a moment, of a flight simulator. You visit an unknown world dotted with highlighter-hued stars. Safely exiting the cockpit, you drift through the shimmering atmosphere, weightlessly capturing multi-dimensional images with only your “eyes”. While a robust, connected Metaverse experience could easily take decades, it has already begun to broaden our view of image making, opening the playing field to new types of creators.
The metaverse will break down the barriers between photographer and viewer
Shared digital spaces that serve as an extension of our own reality (think floating mall) to the expansion of existing multiplayer universes, photography will play a vital role as the cornerstone of new virtual experiences and as a bridge between worlds.
But capturing images through shots raises unexplored questions about the relationship between photographer, photographer, and viewer: Can a photo be taken within a photo? What do you call an image that mixes the real and the virtual?
Although the way we capture what we see may change, our desire to remember, interpret and re-imagine will persist, inspiring even more personalized and immersive viewing experiences. Not only does metaverse photography open up an untapped possibility of creative expression, it offers a new way to communicate and connect, whether you’re an artist or an art collector, a client or a brand. Photographers will have the power to transport viewers, and viewers will become participants in the photos they consume.
The decentralized art economy will bring risks and rewards
One of the most exciting things about photography in the metaverse will be the opportunity for new artists to claim their place in the space and existing creators to reach new audiences.
I recently spoke with a friend and fellow photographer Tobi Shinobi, who offered a helpful perspective. “Instagram has gone so far as to democratize the creative industry for people like me, who probably never would have considered getting into photography,” he says. “Web 3.0 has taken this democratization to the next level. It is to democratize the platforms themselves.
“Right now, you can now create your own community,” adds Shinobi, reflecting on the explosion of NFT creators in his network. The increased focus on digital art has already accelerated the exposure of new entrants to the scene who now have independent channels to generate royalties, unhampered by the algorithms or terms and conditions of mainstream social media platforms. today.
That said, there are certainly potentially frightening consequences of a decentralized web.
This Wild West of photography, including the transfer of images from the real world to virtual dimensions, demands that we revisit the fundamental rules of the art form. As we begin to grasp the complexity of NFT copyright laws, it behooves us to wonder what the metaverse watermark will look like. Creators and platform managers need to update consent rules when our cameras go invisible and even rendered scenic backgrounds become an exclusive subject.
We still need broad education on defining the value of tokens on blockchain platforms, distinguishing between owning and owning art, and refining asset verification tools such as Photoshop content identifiers for any creator looking to protect their work.
For 200 years, photos have given us a window to new experiences and perspectives, and we have a chance to build on what we have learned and build a better platform for this exchange. Despite the many unknowns, I remain hopeful as we look to the future – imagining how the Metaverse will revolutionize photography and how photography will help visualize what the Metaverse can become.
Bryan O’Neil Hughes is Director of Product Management at Adobe and has spent nearly 30 years as a professional photographer.