‘Wonder in the Woods’ bridges the physical and digital art world | VailDaily.com

‘Wonder in the Woods’ bridges the physical and digital art world

Local photographer Raj Manickam displays his work on canvas and as NFTs at the Vail Public Library

Manickam uses intentional camera movement and slow shutter speeds to create a blurred effect that pulls out colors in nature, resembling a painting more than a photograph.
Raj Manickam/Courtesy photo

Local photographer Raj Manickam is presenting one of the valley’s first hybrid digital and physical art exhibitions at the Vail Public Library this month. 

Manickam’s collection, titled “Wonder in the Woods,” includes nine prints on canvas that are on display in the library and for sale in physical form, but that is only one method for acquiring the pieces. Each photo has also been minted as a non-fungible token, and includes a scannable QR code that will allow viewers to purchase a one-of-a-kind digital copy of the work on the Sloika marketplace.

Manickam said that he sees selling art on the blockchain as the next realm of opportunity for local artists. Instead of being limited to physically restricted markets, like the valley, his work can reach and find meaning with art enthusiasts around the world.

“In the future, these digital assets will be a way that art gets recognized,” Manickam said. “I don’t want to be left out because of my own curiosity, and if it’s there and if it is something I can learn and try to understand, I want to embrace things that make sense. And this makes sense now for people who are artists.”

Manickam also sees minting his pieces as a way to preserve them. He noted that local artists historically do not have the privilege of having their work preserved in perpetuity, like that of more famous names, and many pieces end up forgotten and lost over time. By minting his favorite works as NFTs, he can preserve the integrity of the piece far beyond the lifespan of a physical copy.

“Generations to come will remember that you did that artwork, and whether it gets printed and gets hung, it’s still a registered number in the blockchain forever,” Manickam said. “Someday, my best photos, whether I sell or don’t, will be an asset that I can pass down to my daughter, and she will have my digital wallet with my assets. She can sell it, she can cherish it, whatever she wants to do.”

This particular photo series that he is piloting as a hybrid launch are nine photos of local trees, primarily aspens, in which Manickam uses intentional camera movement and slow shutter speeds to create a blurred effect that resembles a painting more than a photograph. All of the photos are taken in Eagle County, and Manickam said that his intention was to put focus on the vibrant colors that surround us in the valley.

“I call it a study of color in nature,” Manickam said. “I visualize, I notice that I can see the sky behind these trees, so when I do my intentional camera movement with slow shutter it will have some blues. Dogwood, at the height of its bloom, the leaves will change to a magenta color. So I could say, wow, this is going to be really nice, because the colors are all going to pop up.”

All nine ‘Wonder in the Woods’ images are available on physical canvas and as digital NFTs.
Raj Manickam/Courtesy photo

Looking at the resulting images, it is hard to believe that they are photographs taken directly from our natural environment instead of the imaginative colorings of an abstract painter. Bright fuschia, shimmering gold, deep blues and vibrant greens surround recognizable aspen trunks like brushstrokes, and reveal a new perspective on the incredible beauty that surrounds us in the mountains.

All of the photographs are one-of-one non-fungible tokens, meaning that there is only one copy that exists on the blockchain and purchasers become the sole owner of that digital asset. Manickam is also displaying his signature work, “Juniper’s Last Gasp,” with a QR code giving access to its one-of-100 non-fungible-token, a cheaper purchase that Manickam hopes will allow the message of the piece to have a wider reach.

One wall of the Vail Public Library display is also being used to sell and display a collection of Manickam’s photographs from Sri Lanka. A severe debt crisis in the country has led to concerns about widespread famine, and Manickam is donating 50% of proceeds from the sales of his Sri Lankan series to support the nonprofit Subramuniya Kottam, which distributes Tapioca sticks and millet seedlings to farmers and home gardeners for sustenance.

For more information about the photographer and the photo series, visit AllInGoodLight.com. “Wonder in the Woods” will be on display at the Vail Public Library from now through the end of August.

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