Artist’s AI image wins photography award, refuses to accept it

The prestigious World Photography Organization’s Sony World Photography Awards has been the centre of controversy as an AI-generated image, titled The Electrician by Boris Eldagsen, won first prize in the Creative category. Although Eldagsen refused the award, the incident sparked a debate on whether AI-generated images could compete with traditional photography in prestigious competitions.

Read: Samsung becomes top smartphone brand amid market struggles

The winning image is part of a series called PSEUDOMNESIA: Fake Memories and was designed to resemble the photographic style of the 1940s. However, the images are not actual photographs but rather “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.”

Eldagsen, an experienced photographer, explained that he acted as a director of the process with the AI generators as “co-creators” and used his photographic knowledge to create the prize-winning image. Despite being inspired by photography, he submitted the work to raise awareness that it is not photography. In a blog post, he stated that he participated in the open call to hasten the awareness of the award organizers on this distinction and to encourage them to create separate competitions for AI-generated images.

In declining the award, Eldagsen acknowledged the significance of the moment and its historic significance, as it is the first AI-generated image to win in a prestigious international photography competition. However, he argued that AI-generated images and photography should not compete with each other in such an award because they are different entities. He also urged the award organizers to recognize this difference and create a separate category for AI-generated images. He added that “AI is not photography. Therefore, I will not accept the award.”

The incident highlights the need for a discussion on the role of AI in creative fields and the need to re-evaluate traditional standards in art and design.