The NFT (non-fungible token) boom over the last few weeks has taken over the cryptocurrency game for artists around the world, and now Black women are leading the charge to elevate the space just for them.

Photographers Lauren Washington and Diana Sinclair — both associated with digital database Black Women Photographers (BWP) — have been integral players in ushering more Black women into the NFT space through online discussions on Clubhouse, Twitter and an onboarding process onto cryptocurrency platform, Foundation.

According to Sinclair, Washington — who also specializes in film, screenwriting and directing — was the first Black woman photographer to join the platform with intentions of innovating the space for artists and women who look just like her.

“I knew about crypto and investing because a friend of mine (Darrian Aldridge, a Black digital asset investor) who runs The Crypto Clubhouse room,” she tells AfroTech. “So I was learning about what that all means and what blockchain is, then there was just one night I kept seeing all these artists get into NFTs.”

“But I never saw anyone who was a photographer or a Black woman, so I was trying to find a way into this space because ownership is huge for me,” she adds. “I said [to myself] if you could take charge of your own career through this, it’d be huge.”

Courtesy of Lauren Washington

Washington also credits people like Lady Phe and Sean Williams for helping her get involved in the NFT space as well.

Both photographers claim that both Clubhouse and Twitter have been huge propellers in helping them connect with other artists and trade information about how to use NFTs as compensation for their intellectual property and work.

Sinclair — also a self-portrait photographer — got introduced to NFTs and Foundation through her partner, a 3-D artist, who helped her get acquainted with the active community of artists discussing crypto and minting — the practice that helps art become a part of the Ethereum blockchain.

Similar to Washington’s observations, Sinclair also noticed a lack of representation for Black women in the NFT space.

“Lauren and I were both having conversations about how there weren’t many Black women at all [on Foundation],” she says. “So it was really important for us to see each other in the space, as Black women and photographers. We’ve kind of been lifting each other up and giving each other a little support as we go on and mint our stuff.”

The two also came up with an idea to start hosting Clubhouse rooms, with the help of BWP founder Polly Irungu, to provide more visibility for women like themselves and spread information about NFTs.

“From there, it just sort of snowballed where all of these artists were reaching out, offering invitations to join Foundation or for me to distribute,” Sinclair says. “At first it was just Black women photographers, but then it expanded to Black women artists.” 

Another fellow artist invited Sinclair onto Foundation’s platform to get her started in the NFT art space. Since then she’s helped onboard 25 Black women artists and photographers by answering DMs and sending invites in an effort to help them mint and sell their work online.

According to her, altogether the group of women have raised roughly 5.5 ETH or $19,000 in USD in just two short months.

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The biggest result of their work has been seeing the huge communication exchange between so many different artists who have also been supporting and buying each other’s work through this very intimate digital experience.

“There’s been a really cool cross-collaboration across industries. People who I would have never had a chance to really work with so easily, now I do,” Washington says. “You see these drops from high-profile artists being really successful if they’re in tune with the community and interacting with people in this space. So that’s just been really fun — to see and connect with more artists.” 

Moreover, these exchanges have been happening all across the world, introducing both photographers to other cultures and making connections that transcend geographical boundaries.

“Growing up, I wasn’t super connected with the cultures that I came from. So now it’s been really crazy because from all the different places that I’m from, I’ve been able to really connect with at least one artist from there,” Sinclair shares.

To date, both women have hosted three Clubhouse rooms for Black Women Photographers, sold several NFTs across platforms like Foundation, Bitski, and Zora, and created a resource guide that breaks down need-to-know information about NFTs.

Sinclair even helped run a fundraising initiative called Toward Utopia — founded by Zak Krevittwhich aims to provide arts, education and resources for users. The initiative plans to do a big push behind Black crypto artists next month.

The biggest agent of change in helping Washington and Sinclair make progress for Black women in NFTs has simply been talking to and engaging with these artists. That alone has been the groundwork that has enabled them to make such a difference in the space.

Washington and Sinclair have been true change-makers who are showing up for the artists in their community. Thanks to them, Black women are now getting the recognition they deserve for their incredible work in the NFT space.

Editorial Note: This piece has been edited to reflect the actual founder of Towards Utopia, Zak Krevitt.