Pulling the AI over our eyes

June 19th 2023 By Aaron Wise 2 minute read

Recently, as part of a creative campaign for one of our clients, we sent our in-house photography team to the Stroud District to take a portfolio of images of some of its most scenic locations. 
Aren’t they pretty? Well, for those astute readers who read the title of this blog, it probably comes to no surprise when I say ‘ta-da’ we tricked you – all those images were created using artificial intelligence (AI)*. 

So what, right? I struggled to spot they were synthetic initially but what if, instead of posting these images in a blog, I entered them in a globally renowned photography competition – and they won? That’s exactly what happened last week when a German artist’s AI-generated entry won the creative open category at the Sony World Photography Awards.

Self-confessed “cheeky monkey” Boris Eldagsen admitted his striking image entitled ‘Pseudomnesia: The Electrician’, which showed a black-and-white portrait of two women from different generations, was not all what it seemed after taking the top spot in the category. He ultimately refused accepting the prize, too – suggesting it be donated to a photo festival hosted in Ukraine.

He wasn’t trying to pull the wool over the judges’ eyes, well, he was, but not for his own personal gain, instead opting to show us how unnervingly lifelike AI images are becoming, with a credible photography competition not able to spot authenticity from fabrication. 

While it might have caused the award organisers some blushes, who have since suspended their activities with Boris, this is a brilliant bit of PR to create a discussion about the future of photography – which the artist fears is under threat by AI. After coming clean, he publicly said: "AI images and photography should not compete with each other... AI is not photography. Therefore, I will not accept the award."

It seems all creative industries are dealing with the acceleration of AI adoption, which is only getting smarter, and it’s currently hard to cut through the media noise on the subject. Boris had the ingenious idea to pull a ruse by targeting an international and well-respected competition, and it worked. It’s certainly got me thinking. 

And what’s my two pennies’ worth, if at all of interest? AI has its place, but there has to be a balance.

*The AI images in this blog were actually part of a campaign for one of our clients, where they were compared to real images of the same locations to encourage tourism in the area. Intrigued? You can read more about it here.

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