An artist declines a photo award after an AI-generated photo wins
written by Leanne Coleraine, CNN
Berlin-based Boris Eldgesen won the Open Creativity category at this year’s Sony World Photography Awards with his entry False Memory: The Electric.
The eerie black and white photo shows two women of different generations – the older woman seems to be holding on to the younger woman from behind.
The organizers said they knew of some of Amnesty’s involvement, but said there were “deliberate” attempts to mislead them.
Eldugsen said he hoped his actions would open up debate on the issue and lead to “separate competitions for AI-generated images.”
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“Thank you for choosing my photo and making this a historic moment, as it is the first AI-generated photo to win a prestigious international photography competition. It doesn’t feel right, right?”
He continued, “AI imagery and photography should not compete with each other in a prize like this. They are different entities. AI is not photography, so I will not accept the award.”
He said he applied “as a cheeky monkey” to see if the contests were “set for AI photo entry or not.”
‘It’s not about winning’
“It shows that right now the photography world has taken aback with this development that you can skillfully create images that look like photography but you don’t need to have the skills and experience of photographers,” Eldugsen told CNN Tuesday.
He said the artificial intelligence had left many photographers feeling “threatened and afraid that they were going to lose their jobs, which is what will happen”.
Eldugson said his intention was not to stir up trouble, but rather to open up an important conversation.
“It wasn’t about winning anything,” he said. “I was just running a test to see if they were aware — like a hacker hacking into a system not to exploit it, but to see if there are vulnerabilities.”
In further statements on his website, he said he had informed the organizers of Amnesty International’s involvement.
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Organizers said 2023 saw the highest number of entries in the awards’ 16-year history. More than 415,000 images were entered through this year’s contests, of which more than 180,000 qualified for the professional categories.
Three finalists have been selected, as well as five to seven photographers selected in each category. The selected images were taken by photographers from more than 30 countries in locations ranging from an abandoned cement factory in China to a fish market in Somalia.
The World Photography Organization, which runs the competition, told CNN in a statement on Tuesday that during the contest’s exchanges with Eldugesen before he was announced as a category winner on March 14, he emphasized his “co-creation” of this image using artificial intelligence.
“The Creative category of the Open competition welcomes many experimental approaches to image-making from cyanotypes and radiographic apparatus to cutting-edge digital practices,” said the organizers.
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 engaging in a more in-depth discussion on this topic and he welcomed Boris’s desire for dialogue by preparing questions for questions. And answers dedicated with him to our website.
“As is [Eldagsen] He has now decided to decline his prize, we have suspended our activities with him and in keeping with his wishes, have removed him from the competition. Given his actions and the subsequent statement indicating his deliberate attempts to mislead us, thereby nullifying the guarantees he gave, we no longer feel capable of entering into a meaningful and constructive dialogue with him.”
The statement said the organizers recognize “the importance of this topic and its impact on the image industry today”.
The World Photography Organization added, “While elements of AI practices are relevant to the artistic contexts of the image industry, the Awards have been and always will be a platform to support the excellence and skill of photographers and artists working in the medium.”
Top image: Boris Eldugesen’s AI-generated image “Pseudomnesia: The Electrician” was submitted to the 2023 Sony World Photography Awards and won first prize in the Open Creativity category.
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