The photographer Justin Aversano remembers the exact moment Twin Flames came into being. It was Valentine’s Day, 2017, and he was at a group show he’d curated. Ali and Gili, twin sisters, had just walked into the gallery hall. He’d never met them before. “The idea hit me like a cosmic lightning bolt,” he says. “From that moment on, I knew I had to photograph twins. In honor of my fraternal twin.”
In May of that year, he created Twin Flames #1, a portrait of Ali and Gili Glatt, the twins he met at the exhibition, in Central Park. Over the next fourteen months, Aversano would photograph 99 more sets of twins using Polaroid, 120mm, and 4×5 film. He traveled the world.
On Valentine’s Day, 2021, four years after he first spotted Ali and Gili, Aversano minted the Twin Flames collection as NFTs. The entire collection sold for 0.55 ETH. Things happened quickly from there. In October, the NFT for Twin Flames #83. Bahareh & Farzaneh Safarani, along with all one hundred physical prints, made history when it was auctioned through Christie’s New York. It was the first NFT to be sold in a photographs auction, realizing $1,100,000.
“Twin Flames has a strong community bond that’s foundation is based on the inter-connectedness of humanity, especially when minting it onto the blockchain,” the artist tells us. As Kurt McVey, a writer, curator, artist, and friend of the photographer, explains in an essay published by Christie’s, Aversano did have opportunities over the years to sell off the Twin Flames photographs separately. But he always meant for them to stay together as a collection. The blockchain empowered him to ensure they would.
“The Christie’s auction came about thanks to the help of Noah Davis, the NFT pioneer at Christie’s, and Darius Himes, the International Head of Photography,” the artist says. “The Twin Flames complete physical set and one NFT of the book cover image were auctioned and exhibited alongside the world’s greatest photographers. Twin Flames was the highest-selling lot of the day.”
Also included in the October auction at Christie’s were works by Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, Robert Mapplethorpe, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and other legendary photographers. Since then, the project broke more records, including those it had originally set. In November, Twin Flames #49. Alyson and Courtney Aliano sold for 871 ETH, making it the fifth most expensive photograph ever sold, following works by Andreas Gursky, Richard Prince, and Cindy Sherman and entering the ranks of some of history’s most important artists.
Funds from that 871 ETH sale went toward creating a treasury to support hundreds to thousands of photographers working in the NFT space. That seed grew into the RAW DAO, a decentralized autonomous organization devoted to photography on the blockchain. Aversano is also the co-founder of Quantum Art, a leading NFT platform with a focus on photography.*
Twins have long carried mystical power, across art, literature, and lived experience. Like photography itself, twindom feels like a kind of magic. The same could be said for the metaverse. It feels fitting, then, for Twin Flames to exist in the physical world, as film and prints, but also far beyond it, its history forever recorded as part of the blockchain–immutable and everlasting.
“Twin Flames #49. Alyson and Courtney Aliano is the most meaningful photo in the project,” Aversano says now. He photographed Alyson, his former photography teacher, at her Los Angeles home, as she gazed into her mirror and closed her eyes, remembering her twin sister, Courtney, who passed away soon after delivery. “This photograph represents the totem of what the project stands for,” the photographer tells me. “Honoring the death of a beloved, through creativity.”
*Stay tuned for more, as our interview with Aversano about Quantum Art is forthcoming.