'As big as Facebook': How city is playing role in new digital craze

The rise in popularity of NFTs has exploded over the past few years.

The rise in popularity of NFTs has exploded over the past few years. - Credit: Gareth Gabriel

With art on the cusp of a digital revolution, Norwich is central to one photographer's plans to tap into the latest craze.

Gareth Gabriel has been a photographer for 10 years but transitioned into NFTs after American digital artist Mike Winkelmann, known as Beeple, sold artwork in the new format for £51 million at a Christie's auction.

An NFT, which stands for non-fungible token, is a certificate which allows a user to own the rights to a piece of digital art.

And these incredible shots of the Fine City are among Gareth's first attempts at the new digital format. 

One of Gareth Gabriel's favourite shots is one of a student eating lunch while sitting on the steps of The Forum in Norwich.

One of Gareth Gabriel's favourite shots is one of a student eating lunch while sitting on the steps of The Forum in Norwich. - Credit: Gareth Gabriel

"Hundreds of digital artists jumped into the space to follow the success of Beeple," Mr Gabriel, who lives in Sheringham, said. "It blew up almost overnight."

Mr Gabriel's NFT collection revolves around a Norwich shoot he took in November 2019 and said that the city acted as the "ideal location" and is "full of character".

The shoot in Norwich took place in November 2019.

The shoot in Norwich took place in November 2019. - Credit: Gareth Gabriel

"I didn't go into it with a plan. It was a case of reacting to what happens around you," he said.

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"I’ve been to Norwich hundreds of times, but it was the first time I visited specifically to shoot so it was nice to watch the world go by.

"It’s a beautiful city with a lot of character."

Gareth Gabriel, from Sheringham, has been a photographer for the past decade.

Gareth Gabriel, from Sheringham, has been a photographer for the past decade. - Credit: Gareth Gabriel

One of Mr Gabriel's favourite shots features a student eating lunch while sitting on the steps of The Forum.

"I was so pleased how that one came out," he added.

"I’ve always loved the aesthetic of the city but on that particular day, it was nice to sit and watch people go about their daily lives. 

"I felt the shoot captured the city well."

Gareth Gabriel enjoyed capturing people go about their daily lives on a shoot in Norwich.

Gareth Gabriel enjoyed capturing people go about their daily lives on a shoot in Norwich. - Credit: Gareth Gabriel

Although yet to make a sale on his Norwich collection, Mr Gabriel believes that NFTs will soon become the norm and predicts it could have a global appeal to rival social media giants in the future.

"I think NFTs will become part of everyday life, so it's exciting to be part of the early stages of Web 3.0," he said.

"Street photography is becoming more popular and there isn't a set price for a NFT. Each is very different.

"I think it will become as big as Facebook."

What is an NFT?

A non-fungible token means that a piece of art is unique and can't be replaced by anything else.

An NFT can be attached to any digital item, such as an image, video, music or message, but a digital certificate of authenticity makes that item special.

With an NFT, people are able to verify the digital token's ownership and the non-fungible part of the name means that it can't be traded or exchanged for an equivalent. 

NFTs use blockchain technology which stores information electronically. A blockchain collects information together in groups, known as blocks, which holds sets of information.

Each block has a set amount of storage capacity and once filled it is chained to the previously filled block.

Most NFTs run on the Ethereum blockchain where there are permanent digital records of all transactions using that cryptocurrency.