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AI generated image wins Sony World Photography Award 2023. Winner refuses the prize

18.04.2023, 15:28
Photo: Boris Eldagsen
Photo: Boris Eldagsen

German artist Boris Eldagsen's entry, entitled Pseudomnesia: The Electrician, won the creative open category at last week's Sony World Photography Award. He said he used the picture to test the competition and to create a discussion about the future of photography, the BBC reports.

Organisers of the award told BBC News Eldagsen had misled them about the extent of AI that would be involved.

In a statement shared on his website, Eldagsen admitted he had been a "cheeky monkey", thanking the judges for "selecting my image and making this a historic moment", while questioning if any of them "knew or suspected that it was AI-generated".

"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," he said.

The image in question, titled Pseudomnesia: The Electrician, showed a haunting black-and-white portrait of two women from different generations.

But as Eldagsen pointed out, in his statement: "Something about this doesn't feel right, does it?"

A spokesperson for the World Photography Organisation, the photography strand of art events organisers Creo, said that during their discussions with the artist, before he was announced as the winner, he had confirmed the piece was a "co-creation" of his image using AI. He noted his interest in "the creative possibilities of AI generators", while "emphasising the image heavily relies on his wealth of photographic knowledge".

"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 [Eldagsen] and the warranties he provided, we felt that his entry fulfilled the criteria for this category, and we were supportive of his participation," they said.

Many artists and photographers accuse AI systems of unfairly exploiting the works of hundreds of thousands of human creators on which the systems are trained - some have even launched legal action. But others simply regard AI as just another tool, a new category of art perhaps, but no less valuable.

As well as pictures, AI has generated a raft of as yet unanswered ethical and legal questions.

As the IMI reported, a Kuwaiti media outlet has unveiled a virtual news presenter "Fedha", generated using artificial intelligence, with plans for it to read online bulletins.

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