NFTs for all? Waleed Shah’s mission

Top UAE photographer Waleed Shah has launched a novel NFT project that aims to support local talent, explain and popularise the use of NFTs, and provide ongoing revenue for the subjects in the form a lifetime royalty on resales of the NFT image.

Unlike traditional art pieces, NFT artworks can embed resale rights. In this case that means Shah’s models will earn revenues through each sale of their portrait – and on each subsequent resale too.

Shah’s name for the project is Mowjood NFT, and it extends his existing Mowjood project. That’s a photo series launched during the pandemic to showcase UAE talent and remind the public that they were still available for work – ‘mowjood’ translates to “I’m here, I exist”, and the project aims to bring to life the roles and titles of the individuals in the portraits. The Mowjood composition looks like a magazine cover, complete with a telling quote or comment that helps personalise the image.

The way Mowjood NFT operates is quite clever. Any time a subject books a portrait session they purchase an NFT from the existing collection, so the original participant gets some revenue from it; the NFT purchase is the only booking fee. Then one image from the session becomes an NFT that’s sent to the client, and that can also be sold. (The client can pay for any additional images they want for personal use, but those won’t be minted as NFTs.)

Waleed Shah (right) takes five per cent of the revenue from the first sale of the NFT, 95 percent goes to the person in the image. On secondary sales, 90 per cent goes to the current owner whoever that may be: five per cent goes to the person in the image, five per cent goes to Shah.

His chosen platform is Solana, which claims to be the fastest growing ecosystem in crypto and is shaping up to be a serious competitor for market leader Ethereum. It’s trading unit is the Sol, which last time we looked was trading at something just over $140. Solana’s NFT marketplace is Solsea, which is where you’ll find the Mowjood images (though they’re pretty tricky to locate with a Solsea search – you’d better off using the links from Waleed Shah’s own Mowjood page).

Waleed says he’s keen to help people understand and navigate the crypto and NFT world, and he sees the NFT-centric Mowjood basically as an artistic and social project. “It’s definitely the future and I see the UAE is open to adopting it. We’ve seen many developments in the fintech sector, with multiple crypto events happening across the country – most recently a deal signed with Binance to establish a virtual asset ecosystem. It’s only a matter of time before this technology is adopted and I would like to help as many people understand it.”

Crypto generally and NFTs in particular are starting to get a bad press for all kinds of reasons – the energy consumption required to mine and to maintain the currencies, the way they’ve become a new asset class for classless speculators, the implication that the bubble will burst one day. But Waleed Shah is bullish: “I think crypto will be mainstream sooner that we realize. The energy consumption issues are being dealt with as technology evolves and scales. Yes, there will be multiple bubbles like the stock and property markets, but we will always recover and stabilise.”

He could be right. More important to our way of thinking is the principle involved – that the subject of the photoshoot in theory continues to see some value from their image – and the introduction to the subject that results from the enforced purchase of an NFT when the session is booked.

The project which was initially started to support artists and freelancers does seems to be helping these same individuals earn money through the conversion of their portraits into NFTs. In its first month, 27 NFTs from the Mowjood project have been sold.

More information here.

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