Lori Grace Bailey, Storm-Chasing Photographer, and Lightning Strike Survivor

Lori Grace Bailey, Storm-Chasing Photographer, and Lightning Strike Survivor

Community, perseverance, and intention – factors for success in the photography NFT space

By Pam Voth

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Overview:

Lori Grace Bailey is a professional photographer, storm chaser, and bullish advocate for women and underrepresented artists in the web3 space. She sat down for a conversation with Pam Voth, Head of Creator Relations for Sloika, to discuss how NFTs made a difference in her photography career. And what she looks for when collecting NFTs from other photographers in the web3 space.

Lori's limited edition works are available for collecting on Sloika: https://sloika.xyz/lorigrace.eth/high-hopes

https://sloika.xyz/lorigrace.eth/high-voltage

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Pam Voth: Hello and welcome to One of One, the new show on Sloika where we talk with photographers and personalities from the web3 space. This is your host, Pam Voth. Today I'm joined by Lori Grace Bailey, professional photographer, storm chaser, and web3 community builder. She dedicates much of her time to utilizing the power of social audio to elevate artists by hosting Rug Radio, ELEVATE! Twitter spaces focused on supporting and onboarding women, LGBTQIA people, and other underrepresented groups in the web3 space. Through the sales of her photo NFTs, she has given back over 9 ETH in donations to Outright International to fight hate and violence. Her photography has been featured in Cosmopolitan and Backpacker magazines.

We're here to talk with Lori about the photo NFT she creates, including her editions on Sloika and the work she collects. Welcome, Lori!

Lori Grace Bailey: Thanks for having me, Pam. It's a pleasure to be here.

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PV: Absolutely. So happy you could join us. Let's talk about your photography. Your storm photos make my heart race. I'm half thrilled and half terrified each time I see a new shot from you. How did you learn to create such dramatic supercell photos?

LGB:
Well, I think it all has to do with the passion behind the art right? And I've always been fascinated by weather, ever since I was a little kid. And I actually remember many, many moons ago when my mother would take me to the park and we would look up at the clouds. And she would often ask me what do I think what do I see in the sky? And what kind of shapes do I see? I'd see turtles and birds and, and Mickey Mouse and all sorts of things, just allowing my mind to wander free.

So you know, it started from a very young age. And then of course in high school, I actually wanted to go to college to be a tornado chaser to study and learn the science and and of course, everybody was enamored in the 80s with the movie Twister. And of course, it just sparked even more, more of a desire to enjoy the weather. So fast forward through the years, and we had children, we had a family and in our art our kids were born. And we wanted to start taking pictures of them. And eventually you start to realize that these digital cameras can actually do much, much more. And so my love for photography started to go to this to plants and wildlife. And finally, back to some of my original first love with the Earth, which is the sky and the weather, especially out here in the southwest.

I was born and raised in a little border town in west Texas and those monsoon storms in the summer are something to look at. And living in Arizona. I also see the magnificence of the monsoon. And around 2015 when I started my photography business, I also realized not only can I shoot people with this incredible gear and equipment, but I could also point it at the sky and capture something that most people don't have the opportunity to see. To be able to bring that and share that with others, it just completes it. It makes the cake. It's the icing on the cake for me.

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PV:
I've always been fascinated by the sky as well. But growing up in Kansas, I was very terrified of tornadoes.

LGB:
Definitely, you know, chasing supercells is an entirely different beast than chasing what we call pulse lightning or pulse thunderstorms in the southwest. Supercells are far more dangerous than tornadoes. I was able to witness my first tornado two years ago in southeastern Colorado and it was beautiful. I like the way that the clouds will form and swirl. As the tornadoes begin to form reminds me of the Dairy Queen vanilla coming out of the machine as it begins to swirl around.

And it's just something that I really think if you can do it safely, it's something that you just don't want to give up. You want to keep chasing the sky and keep chasing after the ferocity of nature's wrath.

PV:
That's a really good way to put it. Have you ever seen the air turn green, like when it's gonna hail?

LGB:
All the time. Actually, that is one of my favorite colors. There's nothing like it. Earlier this year, some of my favorite images I've ever captured were just east of a little town called Oelrichs, South Dakota. It was one of the most beautiful storms and I was able to get us underneath right in the danger zone of this turquoise-laden storm. But that turquoise is indicative also of hail and all of that stuff. So we barely got out of there just as baseball-sized hail started to fall. And we barely made it out just because the timing was so critical to be able to see that for so long. But the great thing is I captured some of my favorite images ever with that unique aquamarine turquoise color.

And to get that is something that I really strive for. So you'll see a lot of that in a lot of my work, because there's nothing like that beautiful color, especially seeing it in person. Wow. It's amazing.

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PV:
Yeah, I remember those days when, when it would turn green. And pretty soon there comes the hail. We would run out, collect it sometimes see how big of pieces we could find.

I feel like we've met almost a million years ago here in this web3 space. And you're such a pillar of the whole web3 community and Twitter spaces. How did your journey actually start here in web3?

LGB:
You know, it actually started thanks to Jessica Moore, who is also a storm chaser. Jessica was one of the first people to onboard me. And at the time I was kind of still just doing my thing. My Twitter account was split, sharing my love for weather and chasing storms with my dogs and, you know, just posting selfies and clips with me chasing the storms and forecasting and all of that.

But Jessica discovered the NFT space early on back in the middle of 2021. And she was just so kind to share the information that helped me to cross that big bridge – that unknown. There are so many unknowns. Getting people from having no idea to, “hey, this is something that is viable as an artist.”

And not only that, watching Jessica finally getting paid for what her incredible work is worth and what she believed it was worth. And seeing that connection, seeing the quality of saying, I believe that my work is worth this much and having a collector pay that price is something that we've struggled with in the storm chasing and photography in general.

Photographers, we're starving artists for a reason. But to be able to finally break away from relying on the media who are trying to constantly get our work for free, and then only wanting to give us pennies on the dollar. And then all of a sudden in the NFT space, you're making what you believe your worth is, it was a no-brainer for me.

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So I finally jumped in around June 2021. Thanks to Jessica and a few other people, Justin Snead, a couple of other storm chasers who were finding success in the space. And I did too, within the first couple of weeks, I had a couple of ETH of sales right off the bat, which is really surprising. But it was exciting. And it was like, “Holy crap, this is real stuff. This is the real deal here.”

And most of all, I think if it wasn't for the community that was just welcoming, especially this photography community, who was just so willing to share anything – knowledge, acceptance, and community – all of the things that we're looking for, that we don't necessarily find on other platforms. Finding that here in web3, you really feel like you finally found a home, you know, a home among friends who actually not only welcome you, but they celebrate your work. And they want to see you succeed. That's how I feel. Now that kind of got me wanting to carry the torch forward. Because it's just such a great feeling when you know that other people are rooting for you.

PV: Yeah, I would agree that is a great feeling. And that feeling really mirrors the experience I had when I first got into this space early in 2021. I thought, “Wow, is this really real?” So it's been a great journey.

What would be the best advice you'd give a photographer who's considering entering the NFT space? What would be the best step for them to take?

LGB: Oh, absolutely. I think that's such a great question too. Because the fact of the matter is that there are many Twitter threads out there on how to jump into the space. A lot of that stuff is logistics, but we don't prepare people. We don't give them the right equipment, and the right tools so that they can prepare from a mental perspective, prepare for the good stuff, and prepare for the long road.

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It's one thing to learn about how to get get a Metamask wallet or something. But it's another thing entirely, to show them how they can stick around, how they can find the right community and stick around. It's important.

My advice is that it's real simple. Three words: take your time. You're gonna feel the pull all day, every single day there's going to be something new, and you're just not going to be able to keep up with the Joneses or the Smiths or the Hernandez. You're just going to have to take your time. And if you take your time to grow your community, if you take your time to get to know people who are, who really do want to get to know you also, right? They want to see you succeed. If you just take the time, take the time to build community, you're gonna find your way. I think everything else is going to come into alignment.

So when you do decide to mint, and you're minting with intention, and you're feeling, ‘this is the time is right, I'm ready to do this,’ you're going to do it and you're not going to feel some of the burn that that many of us feel with FOMO, or impostor syndrome. A lot of those things are going to be not necessarily negated but definitely minimized, and you're going to have to support when you feel, ‘this is a tough row to hoe, nobody told me this was going to be tough, I thought this would be easy.’ And while the community might be there, we still have to fight for it.

This is a very new concept. This is a very new path for all of us. And we're trying to pave the road. But many of us are on the frontier. You are the one that's going to be paving that new road for others behind you. The frontier can be a little dangerous sometimes. So I just would tell people, take your time and don't feel rushed to do anything or to mint. Just get to know the community first. Everything else will fall into alignment.

PV: Great advice. You spend a lot of your time supporting and onboarding women and other underrepresented communities. Why do you feel that that is such an important thing for you to do?

LGB: Well, like I said before, when I first came into the space out as an LGBTQIA, person, I just found that coming into the web3 space in this photography space, it was such a no-brainer. I was immediately welcomed. I wasn't even out necessarily at the time. But just for me to be received as the artist, as who I am. And for people to, you know what door wide open, there is no table that you have to worry about. There's no gatekeeping Well, there is a little bit but you know, when you find the right community, the photography community really is for the most part of an open place where people want to support you.

I just discovered that women still have a long road to go in this space. I don't want to see other women and other underrepresented artists still having to play catch-up in web3 like we've done in web2. I really don't think that's necessary. So if we can do our part to just make sure we elevate – it doesn't mean that anyone's better than another person – but if we can just take the time to say, hey, let's shine a little bit more of a light on women who are underrepresented, or other underrepresented groups – BIPOC people or LGBTQI – if we can just shine and create that sense of belonging, and let them know also that they belong here, we're going to do a lot for the future of the space. Everybody else who is still waiting to be onboarded, they'll also know that there is a safe space and welcoming place for them, too.

PV:
That's awesome. So I wanted to talk about your NFT sales. Has there been a collector who's changed your life?

LGB:
Oh, that's a great question. I will have to say that, and I don't want to name names, there have been particular collectors who have just been absolutely incredible. And I'm very grateful that I actually have been able to have conversations with them that they were open to dialogue after I reached out to them saying, ‘hey, wow, oh, my goodness, you really believed in my work. You bought all of these pieces and have supported me time and time again.’

Actually, there are three people.

My very first collector was the one I began to have DMs with and we began to talk. He was so willing to share why he loved my work and why he connected with my work. And that really set set in motion the things that I wanted to do in the future and how I wanted to navigate the space.

There was another collector who has bought multiple pieces of mine over the course of a year and a half. He collects from everybody, but he still continues to support women and other underrepresented artists. And he's a wonderful man who has been willing to tell me what he looks for and why he collects. There's a lot to learn when you have that connection with collectors.

And finally, there was a third person who contacted me and sent me a DM at the beginning of last year that started a steamroll of pieces. He bought a piece of mine and shared it with his collectors. And it just went on fire. Both collections sold out within a day. And it was absolutely incredible, like three or four ETH worth of sales.

It was amazing for me at the time, and it was a breakthrough for me, because listening to his message that, he connected with what I was doing in the space. Who you are as a person, your values, all of those things are just as important as your art. And they want to know that they're investing in someone who is also investing in the space, and actually cares about the space. I didn't know all of that. It allowed me to have a breakthrough to continue to do what I'm doing today.

So all of that being said, I'm at the place where I'm at today, as a result of those particular collectors and learning what they wanted and what they're looking for. But I’m also grateful that they gave me that feedback that told me I was on the right path.

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PV: It sounds like really good advice you received from them. So flipping that on its head and talking to you, as a collector yourself, can you relate a story about discovering a person's art, and then following through with, collecting that piece?

LGB:
Absolutely. And this happens all the time as a collector myself, I have to admit. It's something just as joyful to be able to support another artist as it is when a collector collects my work and supports me as well.

Following that same example, I'm also looking for artists who are bullish on themselves, who have taken the time to mint with intention, and you can see it in their work.

Pam, I know you curate and you see this all the time. When you can tell that someone has taken the time to give their piece of art the best of their ability, the best of their edit, and the description even and all of the metadata, it seems like they were crafting beautiful pottery, you know, a piece of pottery, and they actually encrusted with jewels. To me, that's when I look at a piece of art. I look at the whole thing. And when I see that, and I connect with that, I connect with who they are as a person. It's a no-brainer.

And if I don't have the ETH to collect at the time, I have a folder, a bookmark folder – and I know other collectors do too – I'm coming back for you.

But it's amazing to see that because there's such a plethora of artists out there who really do take the time to mint with intention. And even if they haven't had a sale in a long time. You know, they're wonderful artists, and you just see them showing up for themselves every day. And I want to be able to support those people and I want to reward that kind of effort that when I'm able to.

And so my bags are full of beautiful photography, because I love the photographers. But I do love other artists also. And I do think it's important for me to also emphasize my collecting also prioritizes women and other underrepresented artists. There are so many wonderful artists out there who don't have the light shone on them. And I want to make sure that I can do my part also, because if I love the art, I want to especially make that effort to collect from them as well.

PV: Let's talk about the work that you have on Sloika. Your very first edition with us called “High Voltage” was an edition of 50 that sold out in less than two days. That was crazy and very exciting to watch! And now you've come back with with another edition called “High Hopes”, which I understand is a companion piece to a very important other image that was actually published in Cosmopolitan magazine.

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LGB:
I love this this particular shot because it's not a composite, yet there are so many layers to it. When you look at the image, you see the rainbow, you see the lightning on the on the right side – what we call a crawler basically – that sky lightning and that lightning is also on the right side. And it tends to fill in the that empty space on the top right. And the rainbow is on the left. It's almost like those, little balls where they set up all these devices for the balls to drop into – something that causes a baseball to jump into the bucket and the bucket flips over and it just brings your eyes into a fullness of the image all the way down to the barrel cactus on the bottom.

And that was kind of an unexpected image but when I captured it, I could see that and I love that shot. More people resonated with that one than they did with the other other one which is an extremely rare shot and has those crawlers coming out standing out from the rainbow itself.

So both of those pieces are truly remarkable to me personally, and it’s pretty darn rare to be able to capture that. And it all resulted in me just making sure that even on a day where it looked like nothing was going to happen, I still decided to get off my butt, get out there and go for broke, basically. And when I thought all hope was lost, I managed to see this. To get the crawlers in a storm is generally indicative that the storm is dying. And that was all I had for the day. That was my whole day's worth was these essentially these two or three images that I captured, and they turned out to be remarkable. So all in all, I'm very proud of myself for getting off my butt and choosing to push forward.

PV:
That just proves how important it is for us to keep at it, right? Show up and do what we're here to do.

What can we look for in the future from you?

LGB: Well, I have a ton of, of pieces, I have to admit. This past year, I have pushed myself farther and harder than I ever have as a photographer.

I know people caution about the dangers of of lightning photography. And it's extremely dangerous. In fact, I was struck by lightning in 2001. And I don't want to tell the story again, it's essentially you’re outside and it happens. I just joke about it and say that it was a revolting experience. So don't get struck by lightning!

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But that being said, even storm chasers who mitigate exposure, these dangerous elements, you're still taking a huge risk. And I really did push myself. Boy I pushed myself this year to capture some of the most incredible strikes that are very visible. And when you look at the images, you can tell that they originated from overhead. And thankfully, they chose a bush or a rock or something in front of me instead of where I was.

But not only that, but the the quality of the imagery that I was trying to pursue with composition and everything, it really pushed me to my limits. And it nearly broke me. It broke my cameras. I've experienced some camera damage getting these shots. I’m looking at a couple of thousand dollars in repairs already. That being said, I'm so excited to be able to finally give them the final touches and mint them on different platforms and try different things.

And guess what, they're all going to be released on web3. They're not going to YouTube, they're not going anywhere else. So I'm not trying to sell them as prints. I'm full board into web3. And I believe that this is the place where I want to be, where I’ll find my success as a photographer.

And if other people want to see these time lapses or whatever, they're gonna have to come to the blockchain and see that. So I'm excited. And I can't wait to show people some of the amazing, incredible things I captured. I'm also looking forward to this year of chasing storms. I have new plans and new ideas. And I'm just gonna go for it full throttle, because life is short. Life is very short. So why not hit the gas?

PV: Hit the gas. And watch out for the lightning. Yeah, well, that sounds fantastic. We will keep our eyes peeled for all of those web3 lightning strikes from Lori.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate the time and this this great conversation about your art. I always love to check in with you.

Where can we find you? You know, if people wanted to hear more from you, where should they look for you?

LGB: Yeah, so you know, everyone knows me on Twitter at and it's pretty much everywhere. Also, I do see a future with Instagram about to roll out NF T's for everyone. I do think that there is going to be viability there. And I just hope people open their minds and realize that you can find success in many different places. So always keep your eyes open.

But I just want to say also to you, Pam, you and the team at Sloika. I was really nervous about minting because it's just another bunch of steps that you have to take. And I just want to say and I've said this before, you and the team have made this so effortless. It was so easy. It just made it such a wonderful experience. And it looks beautiful.

I have to admit my art on Sloika looks really great. It's such a beautifully wrapped package that presents to collectors a really great way for people to see it. So I'm just really grateful and glad that I finally took the plunge because I've been waiting to do it at the right time. And now I'm grateful that I have these pieces. And I'm looking forward to my next piece that I'll be minting sooner or later. We're not sure yet, but it's definitely coming. So I look forward to that. And so yes, you can find me on Twitter @lorigraceaz. Same on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. Lori Grace AZ, which is AZ for Arizona. And LoriGraceAZ.com. You can see my work and links to my Sloika pieces as well as other pieces on the blockchain.

PV:
That sounds great. And yeah, we're very happy to have you as part of the Sloika family. And we'll be here as long as you want to share your work on Sloika. So, thank you so much. We'll let you get back to the rest of your day.

LGB:
Great to finally meet you also.