*Correction: The original story below contained a snippet from the full statement released by the World Photography Organization. We were contacted by them to include the full statement, which you can read below.
After that statement, you can read the original story.
The full statement by the World Photography Organisation, 15.04.2023:
“During our various exchanges with Boris Eldagsen ahead of announcing him as the Creative category winner in the Open competition on 14th March, he had confirmed the ‘co-creation’ of this image using AI. In our correspondence he explained how following ‘two decades of photography, my artistic focus has shifted more to exploring creative possibilities of AI generators’ and further emphasising the image heavily relies on his ‘wealth of photographic knowledge’.
As per the rules of the competition, the photographers provide the warranties of their entry.
During our various exchanges with Boris Eldagsen ahead of announcing him as the Creative category winner in the Open competition on 14th March, he had confirmed the ‘co-creation’ of this image using AI. In our correspondence he explained how following ‘two decades of photography, my artistic focus has shifted more to exploring creative possibilities of AI generators’ and further emphasising the image heavily relies on his ‘wealth of photographic knowledge’. As per the rules of the competition, the photographers provide the warranties of their entry.
The Creative category of the Open competition welcomes various experimental approaches to image making from cyanotypes and rayographs to cutting-edge digital practices. As such, following our correspondence with Boris and the warranties he provided, we felt that his entry fulfilled the criteria for this category, and we were supportive of his participation. Additionally, we were looking forward to engaging in a more in-depth discussion on this topic and welcomed Boris’ wish for dialogue by preparing questions for a dedicated Q&A with him for our website.
As he has now decided to decline his award we have suspended our activities with him and in keeping with his wishes have removed him from the competition. Given his actions and subsequent statement noting his deliberate attempts at misleading us, and therefore invalidating the warranties he provided, we no longer feel we are able to engage in a meaningful and constructive dialogue with him.
We recognise the importance of this subject and its impact on image-making today. We look forward to further exploring this topic via our various channels and programmes and welcome the conversation around it. While elements of AI practices are relevant in artistic contexts of image-making, the Awards always have been and will continue to be a platform for championing the excellence and skill of photographers and artists working in the medium.“
Original story below:
The haunting image you see is not an old photograph but an AI-created image designed to spark controversy. And controversy it sparked.
“Given [Eldagsen’s] actions and subsequent statement noting his deliberate attempts at misleading us, and therefore invalidating the warranties he provided, we no longer feel we are able to engage in a meaningful and constructive dialogue with him,” said a statement from the World Photography Organization given to Gizmodo.
Why the strong words? Because an artist won the Sony World Photography Award by submitting AI art – then rejected the award. Here’s the full story:
Boris Eldagsen, a Berlin-based photomedia artist, won the award with an image titled The Electrician, a haunting portrait of two women that looks like it was taken in the early days of photography. Instead, as Petapixel reports, it was an AI-generated image part of Eldagsen’s Pseudomnesia series.
The artist did not hide the fact that his submission was AI-generated and entered the contest as a way to generate awareness over the differences between photography and AI images. He calls his work “images” instead of “photographs” and his explanation about his stunt is a thoughtful exploration of what generative AI is doing to the photography community.
“PSEUDOMNESIA is the Latin term for pseudo memory, a fake memory, such as a spurious recollection of events that never took place, as opposed to a memory that is merely inaccurate.
The following images have been co-produced by the means of AI (artificial intelligence) image generators.
Using the visual language of the 1940s, Boris Eldagsen produces his images as fake memories of a past that never existed, that no one photographed. These images were imagined by language and re-edited more between 20 to 40 times through AI image generators, combining ‘inpainting’, ‘outpainting’, and ‘prompt whispering’ techniques.”
On his website, Eldagsen thanked the organization for the award and said that, if it’s possible, it should be donated to an Ukrainan photo festival. His reasoning? Take a look at his image The Electrician again and read the explanation, it will make a lot of sense.
“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.
I applied as a cheeky monkey, to find out if the competitions are prepared for AI images to enter. They are not.
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?
With my refusal of the award I hope to speed up this debate.”
Also, remember when we told you how you can identify AI-generated photos and deepfakes? Take a look at the woman’s hands and you’ll realize that (fortunately) AI images still have one major issue.