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A hot potato: Not for the first time, an AI-generated image has taken first prize in a photography competition. On this occasion, the artist who created it refused the award, stating that he only entered the picture to determine if such competitions are prepared for AI images to become entrants.
Berlin-based "photomedia artist" Boris Eldagsen participated in the World Photography Organization's Sony World Photography Awards, which offers prizes that include $5,000 cash and Sony camera equipment, writes Petapixel.
Eldagsen entered his image, called 'The Electrician', in the Creative category. Part of a series called 'Pseudomnesia: Fake Memories', which illustrate the visual language of the 1940s, it appears to be a very old photograph of two women. In reality, all the works in the series "were imagined by language and re-edited more between 20 to 40 times through AI image generators, combining 'inpainting,' 'outpainting,' and 'prompt whispering' techniques."
Eldagsen said the image draws on his extensive photographic knowledge. He considers AI image generators to be co-creators, in which he is the director.
As to why he entered the image, Eldagsen said that "Participating in open calls, I want to speed up the process of the Award organizers to become aware of this difference and create separate competitions for AI-generated images."
"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?"
Eldagsen confirmed on his website that he refused the award and the Sony camera equipment prize. He claims to have told the organizers beforehand that his image was AI-generated, though it has been taken off the website and out of the show. The photographer traveled to London at his own expense to attend the ceremony, where he crashed the main stage to give a statement.
This isn't the first time an AI-created image has won a photo competition; a Midjourney creation won a photography contest hosted by Australian photo retailer digiDirect earlier this year. Another Midjourney image won a category in Colorado State Fair's annual art competition in 2022. The latter incident brough plenty of anger from other artists who had entered, yet the creator insisted he didn't break any rules.
Expect to see many more of these instances until competition organizers address the trend. It also compounds fears of AI taking human jobs, which were intensified last week when a company announced it was replacing its creative workers with generative AI.