She’s been a model, actress, muse and member of the “Fab Eight,” the musicians and wives or girlfriends of The Beatles. Her miniskirts inspired revolutions, and her soft eyes a ballad Frank Sinatra once called “the greatest love song of the past 50 years.” That was over 50 years ago at this point.
What is Pattie Boyd up to now? Minting NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, of course. This Friday, the former model, whose long legs and gapped-tooth smile are potent memories of 1960s style and grace, will auction off a set of her own photography.
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These images have been seen before. Some are a part of Boyd’s first gallery show, “Through the Eye of a Muse,” which traveled from San Francisco to Dublin to Sydney to Almaty, Kazakhstan. The photos provide an intimate look at the life she shared with her first husband, Beatles’ guitarist George Harrison, and later her second husband, his best friend and guitar god Eric Clapton.
It also contains what Boyd claims is the world’s first “selfie,” discovered years after the fact that has gone on to be one of her best-selling photographs.
“Without photographs, I don't think I would remember half the things I experienced,” Boyd told CoinDesk in a video interview. She was dialing in from a sunny room filled with books in England. The owner of Web 3 marketing agency Zebu Digital, Henry Hankin, was next to her on a split screen.
Boyd is not the first photographer or celebrity to sell bits of recent history as NFTs, a sort of crypto wrapping for digital files that gives them a signature, identity and lineage. Nor is she the first musician’s muse to sell a closer look into that world. But she has been turned on to NFTs quicker than most artists of her generation.
She sees the series as “wearing new clothes” and definitely not an artist’s “retrospective.”
“It's a new innovative way of showing [her photographs]. It's a different platform altogether,” she said. “I think [it] might introduce another group of people, as opposed to the people that normally go, to my photographic exhibitions all over the world, which is very nice.”
Buyers of the crypto-based format, which contains both “static” images and “animated” ones, will also receive a print edition and voice recordings of Boyd reminiscing. It’s a way of imbuing a little personality, something kinetic to once celluloid-based images.
Her personal and professional interest in photography followed the market and she hardly ever uses film cameras anymore. “Digital is much quicker, much faster,” she said. “Now there is now a third step ahead, as far as this art form is concerned,” referring to NFTs.
In some sense, the rapidly evolving world of NFTs – already filled with socialites including Paris Hilton, celebrated athletes such as quarterback Tom Brady and a range of musicians both new and old – is an echo of the Swinging Sixties Boyd lived through. Crypto is also an industry birsmiched by scammers and false promises.
“Given the fact that Pattie's attached to it, we hope that people will be able to see this is something that is a cut above the cannon fodder that's littering 90% of OpenSea projects,” Hankin said, referring to the largest NFT marketplace.
“In the 1960s, [when I was in my] late teens, early 20s, we wanted to change everything – we had to fight for our freedom, fight for what we thought and what we believed in,” Boyd said. “Out of this battle emerge the most fantastic, creative people in film, cinema, music, art, every area you can think of.”
Crypto, too, is something of a revolution looking to reshape everything from finance to the architecture of the internet – the world is still waiting to see if it’s a flash in the pan.
Boyd’s generation might have done much to collapse conservative social mores, but the wave of individualism that followed yielded to a culture of hustling, professionalization and self-interest. In other words, the baby boomers (now just “boomers”) built many of the systems today’s youth find oppressive.
“Now, I feel that we're all being crushed, and we're told to be quiet and shut up and apologize. Apologize for being alive almost,” Boyd said. “And now I realize there's this new freedom in NFT, which is completely different.”
Many of the psychonauts of the love generation went on to craft the open internet we know today. For instance, Boyd’s contemporary, John Perry Barlow, was a lyricist for the Grateful Dead and author of a foundational text for both the early web revolution and today’s cryptoratti.
But the open, permissive design of the internet was ultimately captured by just a handful of corporations. The wide-open World Wide Web was replaced with “walled gardens.” Crypto, at its heart, is a return to 1960s permissiveness and the cyberlibertarianism that sprung from it.
At least, that’s what’s said. But they’re selling you something – be it a token or a dream. Boyd, for her part, is characteristically reserved. Her “small collection” is a “little invitation to see how it's enjoyed.”
She may again be joining a revolution, but pushes back against a direct comparison. “That was then, and this is now,” she said.
“But, you know, it still has the same feeling of something new about to emerge,” she said. “I want to touch it. I want to know what it's about.”