- Written by Paul Glenn
- Entertainment reporter
The photography award winner declined his award after revealing that his work was in fact an AI creation.
German artist Boris Eldgesen’s entry, Pseudomnesia: The Electrician, won the Open Creativity category at the Sony World Photography Awards last week.
He said he used the photo to test the competition and create a discussion about the future of photography.
Prize organizers told BBC News that Eldhoson misguided them about the extent of AI involvement.
In a statement shared on his website, Eldugsen admitted he was a “cheeky monkey”, thanking the judges for “choosing my photo and making this a historic moment”, while wondering if any of them “knew or suspected it was AI-generated”.
He continued, “Artificial intelligence imagery and photography should not compete with each other in an award like this.”
“They are different entities. Artificial intelligence is not photography. Therefore, I will not accept the award.”
The photo in question showed a distressing black and white portrait of two women of different generations.
But as Eldhoson points out in his statement: “There’s just something about this that just doesn’t feel right, right?” That thing, of course, is the fact that it’s not a real photo at all — but an artificially produced photo.
The use of AI in everything from writing songs and articles, to self-driving cars, chat therapists, and developing medicine, has been widely discussed in recent months; Now her usefulness about photography comes into focus.
A spokesperson for the world photography organization, photography bar for art event organizers Creo, said that during their discussions with the artist, prior to announcing the winner, he confirmed that the piece was a “co-creation” of his image using AI.
They noted his interest in the “creative potential of AI generators,” they added, while “image emphasis draws heavily on his wealth of photographic knowledge.
“The Creative category of the Open Competition welcomes many experimental approaches to image making from cyanotypes and radiography to cutting-edge digital practices,” they said.
As such, following our correspondence with Boris and the assurances he gave, we felt his participation met the criteria for this category, and we were supportive of his participation.
“In addition, we were looking forward to participating in a more in-depth discussion on this topic and welcomed Boris’s willingness to engage in dialogue by setting up questions for a custom Q&A with him for our website.”
And they continued, “Since he has now decided to refuse his award, we have suspended our activities with him and, in line with his wishes, have removed him from the competition.”
They said they realize “the importance of this topic [AI] and their impact on the image industry today” but stressed that the awards “have been and always will be a platform to champion the excellence and skill of photographers and artists working in the medium.”
Analysis by Chris Vallance, BBC chief technology correspondent
When an AI-generated image won a US government art competition last September, it ignited a debate that has raged ever since.
All the while, the power of technology seems to be getting stronger week by week.
Photographers and artists who previously could console themselves by pointing out flaws in AI-generated images — they struggle with hands, for example — are now finding it harder to spot.
The photography student speaking to me at the time was worried about whether his planned career would still be around in a few years.
Many artists and photographers accuse AI systems of unfairly exploiting the work of the hundreds of thousands of human creators on whom the systems are trained — some have even initiated legal action.
But others consider AI just another tool, perhaps a new class of art, but no less valuable.
Photography itself was once a novelty and, for some, a threatening invention.
But a host of underlying issues remain unclear, including who owns the copyright to the AI image.
In addition to images, artificial intelligence has generated a host of hitherto unanswered ethical and legal questions.
“I don’t blame Boris.”
Eldugsen told the BBC on Monday that he had made it clear to the organizers that he too wanted to engage publicly in an “open discussion” on the subject, from very early in the awards process, but that it was of little use.
Photographer and blogger Feroz Khan Pay particular attention to how the events of the past week have developed. He said he did not blame the artist for showing “there is a problem here in the photographic industry”.
“For starters, most people have a hard time distinguishing AI-generated images from photos (at least at first glance),” he wrote. “Within a few months, it is likely that significant differences will become more difficult to identify unless they are examined.
With this intention, Boris stated that he wanted the photography contest organizers to have separate categories for AI images.
“I appreciate him for wanting to get that distinction in photo contests. Yes, he entered an AI photo into the contest, but it didn’t look like he was out to scam anyone. He wanted to highlight an issue that definitely needs more attention from everyone. “
He concluded that Eldugson “clearly showed that even professional photographers and art connoisseurs can be fooled”.
An exhibition of the winners and shortlisted images from this year’s Sony World Photography Awards took place at Somerset House, London from 14th April to 1st May 2023.
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