A major photography award winner has declined his prize, after admitting that his work is actually an AI creation.
Last week, the Sony World Photography Award awarded German artist Boris Eldagsen for his entry entitled Pseudomnesia The Electrician. It won in the creative open category.
He claimed that he took the photo to test out the competition, and to start a conversation about the futures of photography.
The organizers of the award, claimed that they were misled by BBC News Eldagsen about the AI involved.
Eldagsen, in a statement posted on his website thanked the judges for selecting his image and making it a historical moment. He also asked if they “knew or suspected” that this was AI-generated.
He continued, “AI and photography shouldn’t compete in a competition like this.”
They are two different entities. AI is not photography. “I will therefore not accept this award.”
The image showed a black-and white portrait of two women, from different generations.
“something about this just doesn’t feel quite right.” That something, of course, being the fact that it’s not a real photograph at all – but a synthetically-produced image.
In recent months, AI has been used in everything from songwriting and essay writing to driverless vehicles, chatbox therapy and the development in medicine. Now its use in photography is becoming more apparent.
A spokesperson from the World Photography Organisation (the photography branch of the art event organisers Creo) said that the artist had confirmed during discussions before the announcement of the winner that the piece was “co-created” using AI.
They added that he was interested in “the creative potential of AI generators” and “that the image heavily relies upon his wealth of photographic expertise”.
The competition’s creative category, they stated, “welcomes various experimental approaches in image making from cyanotypes to rayographs as well as cutting-edge digital techniques.”
“As a result of our correspondence with Boris, and the warranties that he provided, it was clear to us that his entry met the criteria for the category and we supported his participation.
“We were also looking forward to a deeper discussion of this topic, and we welcomed Boris’ wish for dialogue. We prepared questions for a Q&A dedicated with him on our website.”
Then they continued: “As his decision to decline the award has been made, we have suspended all our activities with him. We have also removed him from competition in accordance with his wishes.”
The jury acknowledged “the importance [of AI] and its impact on the image-making process today”, but stressed that the awards have “always been and will continue be a platform to champion the excellence and skills of photographers and artist working in this medium.”
A US state art contest in September last year was won by an AI-generated image, which sparked a debate.
The power of technology is increasing seemingly every week.
Artists and photographers who used to be able to point out AI generated images’ flaws – like the way it has trouble with hands – are now finding them harder to detect.
Tim Flach, president of the Association of Photographers told me last month that he was shocked at how easily an AI image of a Tiger could be generated, which closely resembled the photo he had to take.
The photography student I spoke with at the time was worried about whether his career plan would be still viable in a few more years.
Artists and photographers have accused AI systems of exploiting hundreds of thousands human creators whose works the systems were trained on. Some have taken legal action.
Others, however, see AI as a mere tool. A new form of art, perhaps, but one that is no less valuable.
Some people point out that photography was once an invention which, for some, was a threat.
There are still many basic questions, such as who owns the rights to an AI image.
AI has also raised a number of ethical and legal issues that are still unanswered.