Editor’s note: This article was updated on April 28 to reflect that the KB24 NFT collection has not yet launched.
In a world where popular non-fungible tokens (NFTs) often feature cartoon apes, Kevin Lynch is offering an alternative based on his renowned photography. A Los Angeles, California-based visual artist, Lynch is perhaps best known for his celebrity photography, with a portfolio featuring shots of Benedict Cumberbatch, Adepero Oduye, Emma Stone and Rihanna. In February 2022, he launched the Kobe Bryant Experience, a series of NFT “packages” inspired by his iconic images of the late basketball star. With this move, he added digital assets to his portfolio and gave investors and sports fans new Kobe Bryant NFTs.
To kick off this series, Lynch first released his iconic Black Mamba photograph of Bryant as a one-of-one NFT. What makes this an NFT “package” is that the buyer also received an interactive 3D card, access to an exclusive interview with Lynch, and a collection of other high-resolution images of Bryant. In what the photographer has described as a “a special curated collection” of his work with Bryant, he will soon offer NFTs of the image Kobe in Sequence. NFTs of three other images will also be available as part of this series.
Lynch took Black Mamba in 2012, at the start of his relationship with the NBA sensation. Although he has since photographed many other athletes and movie stars, when it came time to venture into a new digital market he saw shaping the art word, he knew that Black Mamba had to be the start. He began offering this series in partnership with Masterpiece Digital, an online auction house he co-founded.
“Kobe is iconographic. He’s probably one of the most interesting people I have ever had the privilege to photograph,” Lynch told InvestorPlace. In a press release, the photographer elaborated that “Kobe left us with his lasting legacy, so these particular iconographic photographs of him are an enticing opportunity for collectors and fans.”
The first time that Lynch photographed Bryant, he says he instantly noticed the athlete’s “eternal game face.” Bryant initially gave the photographer eight minutes to work with him, but Lynch promised he could do what he needed in just four.
“I knew in that moment that I had to get those [shots] in four minutes because I wanted him to know that I was together on my end, so he respected me,” Lynch says. In the years that followed, this initial respect turned into several more opportunities to photograph the star.
Fans who followed Bryant’s 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers will immediately recognize the resulting Black Mamba. Now, Lynch’s digital offerings give them a new way to engage.
“The collector or the viewer has the opportunity to have both an artist’s perspective and the subject’s perspective,” Lynch says, through purchasing the 3D basketball card and the associated materials.
Diving Into Digital Assets With Kobe Bryant NFTs
Prior to launching this collection, Lynch did not have any direct experience in decentralized finance (DeFi) or blockchain technology. However, he wanted to be a part of the new “gold rush” that he saw overtaking the art world.
Lynch said that Bryant’s worldwide appeal made images like Black Mamba a clear choice to start his venture into NFTs.
“I wanted to get in before I missed that opportunity,” Lynch says. His goal was “just get on a blockchain and get [his] feet wet.”
The trend of celebrity-inspired NFTs has been steadily increasing as the popularity of NFTs in general has grown. The Business of Business reports that the NFT market tripled last year and that celebrity-inspired works played a key part. “Celebrities have taken to pushing cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens at a speed once reserved for viral dance trends,” Sonia Rao of the Washington Post reported.
Artists Like Lynch Are Changing the Game
So why are artists like Lynch interested in NFTs in the first place? One reason is that digital asset sales represent a way to remove third parties from art transactions. “The idea of being able to share and trade art, using cryptocurrency, unlocks an entirely new revenue stream for artists and collectables alike,” Lynch told InvestorPlace.
In other words, NFTs represent a way to revolutionize how artists can monetize their work.
One specific dilemma Lynch wanted to address is that artists don’t often directly benefit from the price appreciation of their work — instead auction houses, collectors and investors reap the gains. Through his new NFTs, though, Lynch has embedded a 10% royalty fee via a smart contract. Essentially, on each secondary sale of his NFTs, Lynch will receive automatic payouts. This allows him to continuously profit from the sale of his work, regardless of how many times the NFTs change hands.
A good indication of the size of the movement is the fact that Lynch is not the only creator to develop an NFT collection depicting Bryant. Andy Treys and Sako Waves founded KB24 in 2021. They created this collection to benefit the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, a non-profit organization Bryant founded to help underserved youth. However, these NFTs have not yet launched.
‘Black Mamba’ Kicks Off a Movement
For Lynch, the Kobe Bryant Experience NFT collection is just the start of a new part of his career. “I’m just getting started,” he said. “[I’m] putting my stake in the ground wherever I can right now.”
So what comes next? Lynch says he is currently looking for a new, Ethereum (ETH-USD)-based platform for NFT sales as he gears up to launch future NFTs. Partnering with Masterpiece Digital, he minted the first Black Mamba NFT through the Ravencoin (RVN-USD) blockchain. The initial auction went live at the end of February 2022 on the project’s RVNFT.ART marketplace.
— MasterpieceDigital.com (@MPdigitalnfts) February 25, 2022
The photographer is also gearing up to launch 200 editions of the Kobe in Sequence packages, and hinted that he may release Black Mamba again on an Ethereum-based platform. Regardless, it is clear his foray into digital assets is far from over.
“It’s a movement,” Lynch told InvestorPlace. “A movement where the artists are taking back control of their destiny.”
On the date of publication, Samuel O’Brient did not hold (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.