Aaron Ricketts was just about to graduate from university. His enlistment in the military was coming to an end. The future loomed ahead of him–a mystery unknown. “I felt a tremendous amount of pressure in regards to how my life would proceed after losing all of my ‘safety nets,’” he remembers. A Gallon a Day 2, a photograph of the artist submerged in water, falling–or leaping–into a void, came from that time of uncertainty, doubt, and hope.
Though we rarely see his face, Ricketts’s work feels autobiographical in the sense that you can never separate the artist from his creations A photographer from the age of sixteen, he uses the camera not to capture the world around him so much as the world inside his head; through compositing and photomanipulation, he’s created a dreamscape where anything is possible and reality is merely a suggestion.
Last year, forty of his photographs were minted as part of the NFT collection Creations. His first piece sold on March 11th for 2.88 ETH, or around $5,268.59 at the time. Ricketts was early to the NFT space; as it happens, his first sale happened the same day as the now-famous $69 million Christie’s NFT sale that catapulted NFTs into the mainstream. As he sold more work, Ricketts also became a collector himself, investing in other artists.
“What excites me the most about the NFT space for photography is that NFTs are changing lives,” the photographer says. “For instance, someone who may not have gained recognition from traditional standards is finding success. I’ve seen people pay off credit card debts, student loans, and a number of other things that would normally take a lifetime.”
While Ricketts’s own success in the NFT space happened quickly, it’s been a long time coming. The individual photographs included in Creations were made over five years, between 2016 and 2021. “During that time, I experimented with many different ideas,” he tells us. He’s also had the space and time to hone his vision and expand his understanding of the medium’s potential. “My process has definitely evolved over the years,” Ricketts explains.
“At first, I would simply think of an idea and hope to capture everything I needed to bring the final image to life. Now, I take a more intentional approach when putting together my ideas. I first begin with a sketch to have a starting point for what I’m hoping to create and then build upon the sketch with written instructions on how I’m going to execute my idea.”
He has big plans for the future too. “In regards to my work, I hope to be able to incorporate more 3D assets into my individual creations or larger productions,” he says. “I believe that all other art practices will continue to remain; however, the future is digital, and those who understand that now will reap the benefits in the long term.”
When curating the final forty photos he included in Creations, Ricketts relied on a combination of his personal feelings about the images and his audience’s response. “The common denominator between each piece is that they are all in some way inspired by surrealism,” Ricketts says. And his place in the legacy of the surrealists is unmistakable. His fondness for hats, for instance, mirrors the painter René Magritte’s enduring fascination with bowler hats.
A Gallon a Day 2, the photograph created just before Ricketts left university and the military to embark on a new journey, remains one of his favorites in the collection. The picture speaks to anxiety in the face of change, but it also captures the thrill of transformation and metamorphosis. He’s submerged now, braving the void, and we don’t know who he’ll be when he emerges. “I believe that my work is suited for the NFT space because the space is forever changing,” he tells me. “So is my work.”
All images © Aaron Ricketts. Follow the artist on Twitter at @aaronricketts_.