In brief

  • Matthew Reamer was commissioned to shoot Vitalik Buterin for a magazine profile in 2015.
  • Reamer announced he is now selling the portraits as NFTs.
  • Since the shoot, Ethereum’s price has gone up 300,000%.

On Tuesday, Californian photographer Matthew Reamer announced the sale of three NFTs of portraits of Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin. Reamer took Buterin’s picture four months after Ethereum’s launch in 2015. 

The portraits, which are being auctioned on his page over on NFT marketplace Foundation, show Buterin when his star was just beginning to ascend. 

The first NFT, which has currently attracted a bid of 1.65 ETH, is an action shot of the young software developer looking studious in bed on his laptop. The other two are more typical shots—a full-frontal shot and a headshot against a dark background. 

They were commissioned for a profile on the then-21-year-old Buterin by Swiss publication Das Magazin. Das Magazin reached out to Reamer on November 4, 2015 with a pitch touting Buterin as the inventor of “a blockchain-based platform that could revolutionize the financial system.” 

Reamer tweeted: “We rented a crappy Airbnb to shoot in, and managed to make some nice portraits. I was happy to see our work make the cover, though I didn't have an inkling of what the following years would bring.”

Das Magazin offered Reamer 750 Swiss Francs for his work, which amounted to about $750 USD at the time. Back then, Ethereum was worth about a dollar. Today it trades at a price of $3,230. In the Twitter thread, Reamer expresses regret “about not looking deeper into it.” Had he banked his earnings in Ethereum, he’d have a crypto stash worth almost $2.5 million at today’s price. 

In the thread, Reamer went on to talk about the world of NFTs—tokenized digital assets typically built on Ethereum. According to a report this year by crypto data aggregator CoinGecko, NFTs commanded a market cap of $28 billion by the end of Q1 this year. 

Reamer tweeted of the NFT boom: “It soon occurs to me that I have what are, as far as I know, the only portraits of the person who created the platform on which NFTs live, photographed in the infancy of his creation. How meta!”

In spite of his regrets, Matthew Reamer has secured his place in blockchain history as a visual documentarian of the young rising star who brought the market its second-biggest cryptocurrency by market capitalization. 

Buterin’s achievements amount to much more than just currency. Ethereum’s blockchain popularized the smart contract, bringing billions of dollars worth of financial services and digital assets into existence. But will that be enough to raise the bids for Reamer's NFTs?