Karl Ferris is best known for his psychedelic, colorful style of photography. He famously shot the cover of not one but four Jimi Hendrix albums, and during that period became good friends with one of the most influential guitarists of all time. Now he is selling some of his portraits and album covers of Hendrix as NFTs on the marketplace Music Art.
NFTs have been all the rage recently. Since Beeple sold a collage for $63 million (around £47 million / AU$89 million), more and more artists and photographers have been looking into selling their work this way. An NFT is a non-fungible token, meaning it’s non-interchangeable and is stored on a blockchain. (We’ve got a whole article about what are NFTs, covering everything from how they’re created, how you can make money from them and why they exist, in case you have no idea what we're on about).
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Ferris was born in 1948 in Hastings, England, and went on to study at Hastings College of Art & Design where he specialized in Pre-Raphaelite paintings. It’s this style of art that would later influence his approach to photography, and make him one of the early innovators of psychedelic art. Throughout the 1960s Karl helped to define the psychedelic aesthetic we know today with its bright colors, clashing patterns and warped perspectives.
The photographs beings sold as NFTs were taken from 1967 when Hendrix and Ferris first met. They include a range of portraits of Hendrix and famous album covers that have become synonymous with psychedelic rock. Many of the NFTs are now on sale and prices range from $585-$979 (from £433 / AU$825) or 6.4-10.7 Bitcoin SV.
The NFTs will be sold on MusicArt, a user-friendly NFT marketplace designed specifically for the sale of music-related content such as album artwork, music posters, personalized messages and autographs. It prides itself on "connecting fans with music artists through single and album art and making money in the process" so it's no wonder it was the platform of choice for Ferris.
To find out more about why he's decided to sell his photographs as NFTs, how he came to work with Hendrix and whether he thinks NFTs are here to stay, we had a chat with Ferris.
How did you come to work with and befriend Jimi Hendrix?
In 1967 Jimi asked me to design and photograph something psychedelic for his debut US record Are You Experienced cover because he was very unhappy with his boring UK cover… Then when he saw it, he was ecstatic and said, You are doing with your photography what I am doing with my music… breaking out beyond the current borders and blowing people's minds. Then he said, I want you to be my personal Album cover photo-designer… so, I did the first four US / international LP covers for him and The Experience group.
What drew you to creating psychedelic photography?
I got bored with doing the high-contrast black-and-white shots that everyone was doing back then, and decided to create something new and psychedelic with color… Kodak invited me to try to develop its color infrared film, which had just been released from secret military use, for commercial purposes. So, I experimented with this film and kept procedure records and produced many of my psychedelic photographs using this film.
Aside from Jimi Hendrix, who has been your favorite musician to work with?
I did four psychedelic LP covers for Donovan in 1967-68, and I shot several posters for Cream and Eric Clapton, who I met through one of my regular fashion models Charlotte Martin who was his girlfriend at the time.
What made you want to sell your images as NFTs?
It was at the suggestion of my new gallery, Hypergallery, which is currently cooperating with the MusicArt NFT site.
Do you think NFTs are going to change how people practice photography?
No, I think creators will make NFTs of the images that are special, and that other people might like to own.
NFTs have become massive in the last couple of years, do you think it’s a phase or are they here to stay?
Here to stay… and getting much bigger.
If you could take ownership of any photo ever created, which would you pick and why?
I would pick Richard Avedon – The Beatles psychedelic solarized portraits he shot in London In August 1967, just after I had created the Jimi Hendrix Are You Experienced portrait in London June 1967… when and where Psychedelic photography was just beginning.
For his new limited edition book, The Karl Ferris Psychedelic Experience, with The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Donovan, Cream, Eric Clapton, The Fool and Joni Mitchell, head over to Amazon.