After admitting to using AI to generate a photo, a photographer is refusing an award from the Sony World Photography Awards. The German-born artist, Boris Eldagsen revealed, on his website, that he was not accepting the prize for the creative category. In the photo, two women from different generations are depicted in black and white.
But why did the photographer who studied at the Art Academy of Mainz and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague do this? Well according to him, he wanted to see for himself if competitions were equipped to handle the AI revolution. And in his own words, “They are not.”
Further in the statement, Eldagsen was quite blunt about his concerns about the future of the photography world with AI now involved. “We, the photo world, need an open discussion…A discussion about what we want to consider photography and what not. Is the umbrella of photography large enough to invite AI images to enter – or would this be a mistake?”
But it wasn’t just the entry of his piece he bet would do the trick. It was the stir of his refusal for accepting the award that Boris hoped would get the ball rolling, “With my refusal of the award I hope to speed up this debate.”
In his view, the photography community was at a “historic moment” and he then questioned the community about their readiness when it came to AI. “How many of you knew or suspected that it was AI generated? Something about this doesn’t feel right, does it?…AI images and photography should not compete with each other in an award like this. They are different entities. AI is not photography. Therefore I will not accept the award.”
In a statement to the BBC, World Photography Organization confirmed that it was known before the photo won the award that it was created in part using AI. They were interested in the creative avenues that AI generators can provide while also pointing to how the image itself relied on a wealth of photographic knowledge. He said in part, “The creative category of the open competition welcomes various experimental approaches to image-making, from cyanotypes and rayographs to cutting-edge digital practices.”
The art world was one of the first fields to begin discussing the effects of AI within their community. Last year, an AI-generated art piece won the Colorado state fair causing a bit of a stir last summer. Then, controversy erupted last October when it came to light that AI was being trained using art from artists without their consent.
This caused a wave of boycotts of AI-generated art, and even a discussion by NVIDIA’s art director on Twitter about AI and its impact on art. One this is sure though, generative AI and AI to create art aren’t going anywhere. Popular apps are cropping up, that allows users to input text-data, and even real photographs, to create AI-generated pieces.