Abigail “Abby” Scarlett, a photographer from London, has been making headlines for a recent challenge she’s plunged herself into, to sell her photography and photo shoots for only Bitcoin over the next six months.
She’s already a few weeks into the crusade. In order to show the world what Bitcoin is, she refuses to accept fiat for her work. Her mission is to spread adoption and bring more exposure on the digital currency world.
Scarlett was introduced to Bitcoin while rooming with a miner in Brighton’s seaside district. She was curious about the loud machines the miner had going in their shared loft. Little did she know, the machines were mining cryptocurrency.
After learning about the digital money, which she refers to as “mind blowing,” Scarlett jumped head first into this new world. What really excited her was the community element surrounding Bitcoin. The voluntary interaction and tightly weaved community impressed the young photographer, so much that she decided to revolve her career around it.
“I’ve always been a bit of a nerd when it comes to technology and once I started to grasp the fundamentals of Bitcoin, it seemed clear to me that this technology could be as important as the invention of email if not the Internet itself.”
Scarlett, now hooked on the idea, decided to become a Bitcoin activist. She helped Flawless Clothing, a local shop in Brighton, get its first Bitcoin ATM. She decided the digital currency needed an artistic approach. With her photography career, she started warming up her clients to the new form of money, telling organizers at her photo shoots about its potential to transform traditional finance.
A few weeks ago, Scarlett decided to take her activism further with a challenge that puts her finances on the line. The experiment is not free of losses. She realizes that she could lose prospective clients. When customers are unwilling to pay in Bitcoin, she has to turn them down. Her current contract is with Occupy London’s “Fork The Banks” project. Scarlett’s main clientele are models, musicians and wedding parties.
“The vast majority of my new customers have been really excited and eager to learn more about bitcoin and to see first hand how the payments work. It’s brilliant to see a person’s reaction when using it for the first time! The word-of-mouth seems to be spreading around the artist community where I live.”
Scarlett sat down with Cointelegraph for an in-depth conversation about her Bitcoin challenge. Here’s what she had to say.
Cointelegraph: So Abby, how did you first get introduced to Bitcoin?
Abby Scarlett: I’ve used the term “thrown in head first” before, which I feel really describes how I first entered the world of Bitcoin. For the last year and a half, I have been surrounded by bitcoin enthusiasts and have lived with a number of people involved in bitcoin; from miners to computer programmers and CEO’s of bitcoin companies. As a result of this, I spent a lot of my free time going to meetups and doing photography for bitcoin-related enterprises and events.
CT: What got you so excited about the digital currency as opposed to fiat currencies?
AS: I’ve always been a bit of a nerd when it comes to technology and once I started to grasp the fundamentals of bitcoin, it seemed clear to me that this technology could be as important as the invention of email (if not the Internet itself). Then I used it for the first time after my friend sent me a few satoshis and I was just blown away by how natural it all felt. After I started going to meets and saw what a diverse group bitcoiners were and how these people just buzzed with excitement and optimism for the future, I was sold.
CT: How did you help with the first Bitcoin ATM in your area?
AS: I knew the owner of the T-Shirt shop it was placed in, and also the owner of Satoshi Point (who provided the ATM). Since the shop already accepted bitcoin (and doge!) it was just a matter of making the connection. I then helped with the Satoshi Point launch at Nincomsoup in Old Street, bringing up bitcoin Tees printed in the shop and doing a couple of photoshoots. It was really cool to play a part in helping two businesses collaborate like that.
“I just hope to keep spreading the word of bitcoin and continue photographing all these weird and wonderful characters along the way.“
CT: What started this idea to go Bitcoin-only with your business?
AS: I’d been toying with the idea of doing something that would open bitcoin up to the creative community for quite awhile, and I think for bitcoin to reach more widespread adoption, it’s important that enterprising individuals take risks. This is me putting my money where my mouth is and jumping in head first.
CT: How do you explain to prospective clients that you only accept digital currency?
AS: First, I explain what bitcoin is and send them to weusecoins.org, if we’re talking via email. If they ask for any more info, I find that the Morgan Spurlock CNN video is a great bitcoin primer, along with a couple of shorter vids. For face-to-face meets, I find the best way is to simply show them how it works by transferring a few satoshis. If they are still interested, I explain how they can then make a purchase (via the ATM, an exchange or face-to-face). I have a few friends on standby too who are able to do a trade without charging commission.
CT: How have new customers taken to this idea of yours? What about existing clients?
AS: The vast majority of my new customers have been really excited and eager to learn more about bitcoin and to see first hand how the payments work. It’s brilliant to see a person’s reaction when using it for the first time! The word-of-mouth seems to be spreading around the artist community where I live too; the majority of new commissions right now are for bands and artists that have found me through client recommendations and word-of-mouth from friends. A live music event that I regularly photograph now even accepts bitcoin themselves after hearing about it through me.
CT: Have you seen any losses or gains from going this route?
AS: I have lost a few clients, but gained a bunch too. The volume of wedding enquiries have dropped since the launch of abbybitcoin.com. I suppose when you’re settling down and starting a family, learning something new like bitcoin — which takes time to understand — isn’t going to be your top priority.
It’s too early to tell whether I have lost actual money going down this route, but I’m happy with how everything is going so far.
CT: Can you tell us about your Occupy London customer Fork The Banks and what you’re doing with this project?
AS: I can’t tell you much about Fork The Banks, as I had to sign an NDA [non-disclosure agreement] with them, but as soon as they are ready to go to press, you won’t need me to tell you their plans! I think it’s a really exciting project though and one I’m blessed to be involved with.
CT: Have you gotten other interesting clients from this endeavour?
AS: Yes, everything from lawyers wanting corporate shoots to bitcoin bloggers posing in front of Big Ben! My last shoot was for Craig Charles’ son — the amazing Jack Tyson Charles, who spent most of the shoot demanding pear juice from our assistant (jokingly) and shouting how bitcoin was going to change the world at complete strangers. He was hilarious.
CT: What do you expect to achieve out of your challenge to accept Bitcoin only?
AS: I hope to get my bricks-and-mortar business up and running and publish a photo journal of my adventures in the world of bitcoin. But, most of all, I just hope to keep spreading the word of bitcoin and continue meeting (and photographing!) all these weird and wonderful characters along the way.