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Street photographer shares NFT profits with street performer subject

NFT of street performer Donald Heller taken in Boston
(Image credit: Austin Schofield - Foundation)

Boston, USA-based street photographer, Austin Schofield, has made the life of a local street performer that little bit easier thanks to the sale of four NFTs. As a way of giving back to Donald Heller, aka "The Hurdy Gurdy Man", Schofield has ensured that Heller will receive royalties from the initial sale of the NFTs as well as future sales. 

NFTs are still a point of contention, and in the past photographers have been criticized for selling NFTs that are exploitative. The Associated Press came under fire for attempting to sell a video of migrants (opens in new tab) on a boat as an NFT, furious fans took to Twitter to air their anger over Nirvana NFTs (opens in new tab), and one auction house in New Zealand, reportedly told a winning bidder to smash the original glass plate portraits (opens in new tab) so the NFTs were worth more. 

• Read more: What are NFTs? (opens in new tab)

When Austin Schofield asked to take Donald Heller’s portrait in 2019, neither of them thought the photos would end up as NFTs worth more than $4,000. Despite having doubts about how successful the tokens would be, Schofield listed them on the NFT market foundation – but it was his friends that encouraged him to share the wealth from the sales. 

(Image credit: Austin Schofield - Foundation)

"Initially I felt a little weird about making money off these portraits because these are people who are monetarily underappreciated," Schofield told the Boston-based radio station WGBH. "With this, I feel like I can give them something of sincere monetary value and he will get money kicked back to him."

To ensure Donald was getting a good deal, his son Julien Heller – who works in cryptocurrency – stepped in and came up with an arrangement with Schofield that would suit both parties. It was decided that all initial royalties and future royalties would be split 80/20 between Schofield and Donald, and a wallet was opened for Donald’s payments. Already Donald has roughly $800 worth of Ethereum tokens but, since the value of them fluctuates so much, it can be as much as $1000.

For a man who can earn anything between $0 and $250 a day, the revenue Donald can gain from the NFTs will ensure that even on a bad day or a bad week, he has a safety net. Originally Schofield just put three NFTs of Donald up for sale, but decided to sell a fourth to Donald’s son Julien which was purchased for a little over $900. 

Whether or not you love NFTs, hate them or plain just don’t understand them, at least photographers like Schofield are proving that they can be beneficial to all parties involved. NFTs don’t have to be exploitative, they don’t need to be sold without the subject in them knowing about it, and they can in fact change lives. 

Read more:

Why I'm scared to sell my photos as NFTs (opens in new tab)
NFTs and photography: A passing fad or here to stay? (opens in new tab)
What are NFTs and can photographers make money by selling them? (opens in new tab)

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.