There is some controversy in the photography world as an AI generated image won a major award in a prestigious competition, petapixel has reported. a piece called The electrician by Boris Eldagsen won first prize in the Creative category at the World Photography Organization’s Sony World Photography Awards, despite not being taken by a camera. Eldagsen subsequently declined the award, saying, “AI is not photography. I asked (…) to find out if the contests are set up for AI images to enter. They are not.”
The Eldagsen image is part of a series called PSEUDOMNESIA: False Memoriesdesigned to evoke a photographic style of the 1940s. However, in reality they are “false memories of a past, that never existed, that nobody photographed. These images were imagined by language and reissued more than 20 to 40 times a through AI image generators, combining ‘inpainting’, ‘outpainting’, and ‘quick whisper’ techniques.”
In a blog, Eldagsen explained that he used his experience as a photographer to create the award-winning image, acting as process manager with the AI generators as “co-creators.” Although the work is inspired by photography, he said the point of the presentation is that it is No Photography. “By participating in open calls, I want to speed up the process for the Prize organizers to realize this difference and create separate contests for AI-generated images,” he said.
Eldagsen subsequently declined the award. “Thank you for selecting my image and making this a historic moment as it is the first AI-generated image to win a prestigious international photo contest,” she wrote. “How many of you knew or suspected that it was AI generated? Something about this doesn’t feel right, right? AI images and photography shouldn’t be competing with each other for an award like this. They are different entities. AI is not photography. Therefore, I will not accept the award.”
Shortly after, the photo was removed from the show and competition website and the organizers have yet to comment on it. Eldagsen traveled to London to attend the ceremony and even took the stage (uninvited) to read a statement in person.
It’s unclear whether or not the organizers knew the work was AI-generated (Eldagsen said he told them it was). In any case, instead of cringing at the situation, they should accept it. AI-generated art has entered culture in a huge way over the past year, with AI winning photography and art contests in recent months. Eldagsen’s piece is meant to create conversations about how to handle it, particularly when it invades mainstream media.
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