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Reuters launches first NFT auction of “California Deserted” photograph

The 110 freeway leading into downtown Los Angeles is emptier than usual after California issued a stay-at-home order due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

During last week’s Ethereal Summit, Reuters announced the launch of a non-fungible token (NFT) auction of a photograph by Pulitzer-Prize winning photojournalist Lucy Nicholson.

Following the virtual event organized by crypto news site Decrypt, where Nicholson spoke on a panel moderated by Jonathan Dotan, founder of Stanford StarlingLab about crisis journalism and blockchain, Reuters has partnered with Decrypt to launch its first-ever NFT auction to help shine a light on crisis photography.

The photo by Nicholson, entitled “California Deserted,” shows abandoned streets of California during the COVID-19 lockdown.

“I photographed ‘California Deserted’ at the end of March 2020, when California issued a stay-at-home order in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Nicholson said. “Los Angeles’ notoriously clogged freeways emptied overnight. I photographed a series of drone and overhead views of eerily depopulated streets, ports, beaches, and school playgrounds.

Over a year later, on the day my photo was minted as an NFT, Los Angeles reopened to the greatest extent since the beginning of the pandemic. Cars once again packed the freeways.

‘California Deserted’ is a photojournalistic record of a unique moment in time when those who could stayed home. It’s a digital testament to the mass casualty event we’ve all lived through. We photojournalists bore witness to the individuals and groups of COVID-19 patients passing through hospitals, the grieving relatives, and the funerals. However, it’s challenging to visually represent the magnitude of the collective loss.

This NFT is in memoriam of the 579,520 people in the U.S. and 3.38 million globally who have died from COVID-19 so far and didn’t make it through the year with us.”

“Photojournalism plays a crucial role in documenting history, capturing a single moment in time and allowing it to move, inspire and live on forever. We’re thrilled to launch this NFT showcase of Lucy’s photography to shine a light on the work of photojournalists in the field covering combat and crises around the world,” said Pierpaolo Maniglio, Reuters Director of Off-Platform Development & Social Media.

“The preservation of the craft of journalism is paramount to the stability of our society and our democratic ideals. The checks and balances that the fourth estate seeks to ensure are seamlessly supported by decentralized technology. An immutable storage of facts bolstered by reputation will bring us to the future,” said Decrypt Publisher and CRO Alanna Roazzi-Laforet.

To see Lucy Nicholson’s image and bid on the dedicated NFT, click here.

The NFT auction follows the launch of the Reuters Photojournalism Gallery at the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) headquarters in New York, which showcases Reuters news photography on some of the most challenging and inspiring moments of our time. The first exhibition at the Reuters Photojournalism Gallery features the best of Reuters photography from the past decade. Images explore some of the most significant issues from the last ten years, from conflict, migration and COVID-19 to natural disasters and racial justice demonstrations around the world. Reuters is partnering with Consensys and Palm to launch an NFT auction of select images from the gallery, with a portion of proceeds donated to CPJ to advance their mission of defending the right of journalists to report the news safely and without fear of reprisal. More details on how to bid in the auction will be available in the coming weeks.

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