Whenever one is new to a community, you first need to find your bearings. As a female lens-based artist, I was searching for more unique female and non-binary voices in the space. I stumbled upon Danielle Ezzo’s work and immediately connected to it. I was very intrigued by her aesthetic, which has a similarly disruptive sensibility to the medium of photography that I utilize in my craft as well. In a few short months Ezzo has already led the creation of Obscura’s “Girls, Gay, and Theys” Discord channel, been a recipient of the Obscura Who We Are grant, and released her NFT collection “If Not Here, Then Where?” on OpenSea, carving out a path focused on diversity & inclusion in NFTs.
Let’s dive into this interview with Danielle Ezzo, learning more about her NFT journey, the release of her first project, and her vision as a community member of Obscura.
Archer: When did you first enter the NFT world?
Ezzo: I minted my first piece in May, not fully being aware of the community. Then, Gregory Eddi Jones, who I've known for a decade IRL, helped me get over my initial concerns. I think that was 3 days after Obscura formed their Discord. I just happened to jump in at the right time when everything started to explode in terms of the photo community. I guess I went from 0-60 immediately and it was a good way to facilitate my own community. In general we should be carving out space for marginalized voices from a wide range of people, which I think is beginning to happen.
Archer: How would you describe the work you do?
Ezzo: I'm interested in pushing photography in ways that haven't been pushed before. I was drawn to image making first through historical processes and attracted to work that challenged the medium. I came about it from this interdisciplinary approach. A lot of my work explores new methodologies and modes of thinking.
Archer: Let’s talk about the launch of your incredible collection “If Not Here, Then Where?” on OpenSea. How did you decide this was the perfect project to launch as your first NFT collection?
Ezzo: I started working on this project in the beginning of 2021. I had already been thinking about the concepts of that project tangentially to NFTs. They seemed oddly complementary to one another. The project engages with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s digital archive and their open-access image library. During the pandemic, when we couldn't go to exhibitions in person, our only option was to engage with the art virtually. Then I realized this huge archive was fantastic because they were showing parts of it that would never make it into a curated physical show; like love letters, anonymous artworks, beads, broken pottery, postcards, and all kinds of displaced artifacts. It's a great allegory for what's happening with NFTs right now and images on the internet in general. Images take on their own lives online and get separated from their native meanings. In my project, there’s unlockable content for collectors, which links back to the original archive. They can learn about the specific artworks within the image I've made. As I was finishing up this project, it seemed like a natural fit to launch as an NFT collection.
Archer: Where and how did you come up with making these into delicate mobiles floating against a blue sky?
Ezzo: Walking to my studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn, we have these wide open skies which is unusual for New York. I started playing with this piece of mirror outside to capture these fantastic skies that were very expansive. I wanted the images to feel both real and virtual at the same time, unpinned to a place. The work points to untethered images that are floating around on the internet, disambiguated. The clouds and the sky were a metaphor for that. They are material because they're paper, but they're also abstracted because they're actual physical objects that I've printed out. There's all these different levels of flattening the object and rematerializing it.
Archer: How did you choose these specific clusters of artifacts?
Ezzo: The selection is arbitrary really based mostly on my intuition and aesthetic proclivities. Similar to how the MET’s search engine arbitrarily sorts and clusters images together.
Archer: It’s interesting how on a deeper level you act both as the artist and as a curator of the artifacts, within your new re-interpreted mobiles.
Ezzo: I hadn’t considered myself in both of these roles, but it’s completely accurate. I scrape the archive for individual images that I’m drawn to. I’m aided and limited by The MET’s browser search to find what I’m looking for. Through this process I collect the objects as printed images and from there construct the mobiles based on composition and color alone. This is a reflection of how a “user” of the search engine might behave. The average person may interact with their archive by instinct and intuition, not larger historical constructs. In this way, I’m leaning on my behavior as a user, who within The MET’s system has become the curator. Everyone is their own curator now.
Archer: How do you see NFT culture and community colliding with the physical existing art world?
Ezzo: There are mediums that have the opportunity to thrive in digital realms, like generative work, video, and rendered digital objects, that have never fit into traditional spaces. It gives those mediums a place to shine.
I've evolved with how I approach viewing work virtually from where I was when I began my project. I can thank the NFT community for that. I’m approaching work differently now. I start out many of my days visiting other people's virtual galleries. In some ways I feel like I'm engaging with art on a more frequent basis now post-pandemic than I had been previously, and to me, that's a good thing. I still love seeing work in person, and creating work that has materiality to it, but there’s a place for everything.
I think for many there is a sense of elitism in art, which is why people disengage. To be able to shepherd new art appreciators into the space and collect work that they would never encounter otherwise, must be a good thing.
Archer: How do you define a post-photographic lens?
Ezzo: For me, it starts with looking at the future of photography and expanding on what representation means. The conversation will continue to evolve with each generation, with new technology folded into the medium. In some ways that's really why I love photography. It will continue to be informed by technology, and challenge itself.
Archer: What excites you most about NFTs and what Obscura is building?
Ezzo: What's really exciting is this idea of provenance and legacy of an artist. This is happening more broadly in the NFT landscape of course, because every work on the blockchain is ultimately pointed back to that artist. There's so many facets of what Obscura is building that are very cool. Primarily, I get the sense that it's less about collections and sales and more about education and community building. Aside from creating a strong base of informed collectors and artists, they're focusing on stewarding a generation of image makers to further the conversation. The future of photography and NFTs is ultimately very bright and quickly evolving. NFTs have formatively changed the way we look at work and experience the medium as a whole.