Photography The story of the AI-generated photo that won a photography contest

The story of the AI-generated photo that won a photography contest

Tommaso Berra
Boris Eldagsen |

From the photo of the pope wearing a fake Moncler jacket to those of Donald Trump being “arrested,” several articles in recent weeks have wondered what misunderstandings can be triggered by photos generated by artificial intelligence software. In the same days to further fuel the debate emerged the story of the photo – created with AI without the judges’ knowledge – that won one of the prestigious Sony World Photography Awards.
Submitted in the “Open-Creative” category, German artist Boris Eldagsen had not initially disclosed the tool with which the shot was taken, since the contest guidelines specified that it could be produced “with any device.” Boris, for years a scholar of new technologies applied to photography, in presenting the work entitled The Electrician, part of the series Pseudomnesia: Fake Memories, did not want to circumvent the rules by going to act on a gray area of the rules, but rather to launch a provocation, which culminated in the announcement of his victory on March 3.

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When the SWPA judges told Boris Eldagsen about the award, not only did the artist reveal that the photo was actually the result of Stable Diffusion software, but he also forfeited the first prize, responding that “images created with AI and photography should not compete with each other in an award like this. They are different things. AI is not photography. Therefore, I will not accept the prize.”
In fact, Boris said that he participated in the award only to see if the big photography competitions were ready for images created with artificial intelligence, enhancing them as an artistic product while protecting the work of photographers.
Eldagsen’s black-and-white shot, which captures two melancholy women in a style reminiscent of family portraits from the 1940s, thus had the critical goal of “accelerating the process of the prize organizers becoming aware of the difference between photographs taken by humans and those generated by artificial intelligence.”

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Un post condiviso da Photomedia & AI Artist (@boriseldagsen)

Eldagsen recounted the whole affair on his own blog and through Instagram; meanwhile, the organizers of the Sony World Photography Awards issued no statement and indeed removed the image of the work The Electrician from their site, as well as references to the artist.
That of the awards was not the first showcase in which serious groundwork was laid for critical discourse on AI-generated images, however, the misunderstanding, reaching an award and institutions like that of the SWPA, will allow the uniqueness and diversity of each creative product to be protected and recognized in the future.

Written by Tommaso Berra
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