Jordan Banks is best known for his stunning landscapes and portraits, but he's also trying to elevate other photographers alongside him. He speaks to Randy Ginsburg about his journey to digital ownership, creative freedom, and the JRNY Mag.
Jordan discovered that he had an eye for composition long before he first picked up a camera. “I’ve always been interested in the human condition and the significance of interactions, even when they're just for a brief moment in time,” he explains. “I've always seen the world in little frames.”
After rudimentary experimentation with film as a child, Jordan thought that he had found his calling. Years later, he set off to fulfill his dreams as a conflict photographer. But when he landed his first gig assisting a news cameraman, he quickly realised that this was not the path that he had envisioned.
“I didn’t want to film a reporter covering these issues. I wanted to go and see these things myself, and capture the raw moments that will change policies and minds,” he recalls. “I wanted to do something that made a difference in the world.”
Jordan decided that the best way for him to achieve that was through travel photography. The rest was history: over the last twenty years, Jordan has cemented himself as a pillar of that community. From New York to Mathura, he has ventured across the world, sharing his work in publications like National Geographic, Time, and Conde Nast, and on commission for some of the world’s largest companies, including British Airways, Apple, and Microsoft.
“I've always seen the world in little frames.”
— Jordan Banks
Unlike many digital-age photographers, who showcase heavily-edited, Instagram-ready photos, Jordan has won over travel enthusiasts and photography purists alike with his radically different approach.
“I try to capture the raw moment exactly as it is so that people can actually go to that place and see the same thing,” he says. “If you stop watching television, get outside, and experience the world for 300 days of the year, you’re going to see some pretty incredible stuff.”
Now, Jordan is bringing this authenticity and emotion to the blockchain, where it will live in perpetuity. Like many other members of the web3 community, Jordan came across the space in early 2021. But unlike others who jumped in head first, Jordan approached the hype with scepticism.
“I wanted to do something that made a difference.”
— Jordan Banks
“I spent three or four months on the sidelines, just watching, learning, and connecting with people. I wasn’t worried about minting, money, or flips, just building relationships,” he recalls. “I saw the long-term beauty of web3 almost instantly after that. It felt like I had rediscovered the internet.”
Despite watching other photographers rush in and make money straight off the bat, Jordan knew there was a bigger strategy at play. After months of interacting with web3 natives on Twitter, and building a supportive community of photography lovers, Jordan released his first piece, Doors, into the world. After a few months, he sold the piece on auction for 2.7 eth, just over $12,000 at the time.
One sale followed another, then another. Soon, he was accepted to SuperRare, earning himself one of the biggest badges of credibility in the decentralised art sector.
Despite his early success, Jordan, in true web3 fashion, is sticking to his long-term vision and pursuing full ownership of his work. “The goal is to have my own marketplace on my website,” he said. “I want to have my own smart contract too. I wouldn’t sell my physical work without a contract that I had made myself, and the same applies here.”
But the next step is bringing his independent travel magazine, JRNY Mag, into web3. In the wake of the pandemic and the subsequent closure of major travel magazines, Jordan and fellow-photographer, Kav Dadfar, launched the bootstrapped-magazine to fulfil growing demand for travel content as the world shut its doors. Packed with vivid imagery and descriptive long-form editorial content, the inaugural issue won Travel Media Awards’ “Travel Magazine of the Year.”
By tokenising JRNY Mag subscriptions as NFTs, Jordan and his team will continue to push the envelope of what's possible, whilst finding new ways to engage their community and reward subscribers for their support.
“I saw the long-term beauty of web3 almost instantly after that.”
— Jordan Banks
“Even if we fail, and we release 500 pieces and only sell 50, we’ll have shown our forward-thinking. There isn’t another publication out there doing NFT subscriptions, and we already have an existing community of 10,000 people ready to support our work.”
But while the idea is fresh in his mind, he has no rush to execute it. As with his initial foray into web3, Jordan accredits his patience to his age and maturity.
“At age 25, I would have jumped in too fast. But I’ve been here before and I’ve made mistakes. This is an instance where I’ve found myself in the right place at the right time. Aged 40, it makes it easier to make the right decisions when you have the tools and resources required to do so.”
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