AI photograph wins esteemed Sony competition, infuriating fans


German artist Boris Eldagsen‘s AI generated image for the 2023 Sony World Photography Awards showing two women of different generations holding each other in a sepia toned image

An AI photograph generated by a computer was the controversial winner of the 2023 Sony World Photography Awards. Submitted by German artist Boris Eldagsen, the generative image was used to force the discussion surrounding AI artwork.

Eldagsen used AI art programs such as Midjourney or Stable Diffusion to create the winning “photograph” at the Sony competition. Dubbed ‘Pseudomnesia: The Electrician’, the sepia-coloured image shows two women from different generations interacting.

Pseudomnesia took the win at the competition’s Creative Category, but once it was discovered to be an AI creation, the photography community exploded. However, Eldagsen was quick to respond, claiming he sent in the AI photograph to test whether or not competitions were prepared to deal with artificial intelligence

“I applied as a cheeky monkey, to find out if the competitions are prepared for AI images to enter. They are not," Eldagsen explained on his website.

Nevertheless, the awards body is still upset with the artist’s actions, calling them “misleading”. The Sony World Photography Awards body has allegedly shut down communication with the artist who was hoping to help force more security against AI artwork in the future.

“Given his actions and subsequent statement noting his deliberate attempts at misleading us, and therefore invalidating the warranties he provided, we no longer feel we are able to engage in a meaningful and constructive dialogue with him,” the awards body announced.

Nevertheless, Eldagsen purposefully withdrew his win from the competition as soon as it was revealed to be an AI-generated product. The German artist has fought back against the awards body, claiming they “had so many options to use this for good” but “used none of them”.

This isn’t the first time an artificially generated artwork has taken the winning prize at a competition. Last year, artists were infuriated after an AI art piece took first place at the Colorado State Fair.

Put together by game developer Jason Allen, the AI art piece “Théâtre D'opéra Spatial” was printed onto canvas and entered into a physical, beloved state art fair.

Allen’s entry into the state fair competition saw the internet ablaze with hatred for AI artwork.

“We’re watching the death of artistry unfold right before our eyes,” a Twitter comment reads. “If creative jobs aren’t safe from machines, then even high-skilled jobs are in danger of becoming obsolete. What will we have then?”

AI generated artwork has become a hot topic over the past year. As generative works become prominent on social media, many real artists have fought against the technology to the point of creating digital strikes.

With AI art requiring original artwork to build itself, there’s a sentiment that every piece of artwork that builds these neural nets should be compensated for new creations.

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