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And the winner of the World Photography Awards is… an AI

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Alexine Somville

Alexine a 20 ans et est étudiante à la HEAJ en bac3 relations publiques/journalisme et communication. Ce qu'elle aime ? Passer du temps avec ses ami·es, lire, peindre, regarder des séries... En stage au ProtoLab de Namur, elle se montre efficace, dotée d'un esprit d'initiative et d'une grande créativité.

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Each year, Sony holds the World Photography Awards, a competition which rewards the best photographs. The German artist Boris Eldagsen has just won first prize in the ‘Creative Open’ category. His photograph, named ‘Pseudomania,’ has succeeded in deceiving the jury.

On this picture is the portrait of two women presented in the style of yesteryear, from the beginning of the twentieth century. As an image, nothing could be more commonplace. And yet, it is hiding a quite distinctive aspect of it from us. – Go on, you have five seconds … time’s up, have you guessed what it is?

© Boris Eldagsen – Pseudomnesia | The Electrician

The truth is that this image was generated by an artificial intelligence. The artist’s goal was to highlight the dangers related to realistic photographs created by AIs and thus trigger an ‘open discussion’ on the future of photography. ‘AI images and photography should not compete with each other in an award like this. They are different entities. AI is not photography,’ declares the photographer on his blog.

Thanks, but no thanks

The winners of the competition were announced on April 13. Immediately after his victory, Boris Elgadsen stated, once again on his blog, that he was turning down the prize. The artist thanked the judges for having chosen his image and for having, inadvertently, it must be said, ‘turned the event into a historical moment.’ – Be on the lookout, because his portrait will be available on kingkong very soon.

Faced with such goings-on, the world of photography is in a complete muddle – and so are we, for that matter. If even a professional jury cannot detect the involvement of an AI, then what chance does anybody else have? The fear of being replaced is becoming palpable amongst certain photographers. And questions concerning the future of their profession are being raised.

‘Following our correspondence with Boris and the warranties he provided, we felt that his entry fulfilled the criteria for this category, and we were supportive of his participation. Additionally, we were looking forward to engaging in a more in-depth discussion on this topic and welcomed Boris’ wish for dialogue,’ explained a spokesperson for the competition in The Art Newspaper.

Should AIs be feared?

It is neither the first nor the last time that AIs have been fiercely discussed. Last April, Donald Trump on this occasion became the subject of a debate concerning a photograph, generated by an AI, posted by his son. In it the former President of the United States was seen walking in the streets of New York, followed by a crowd of supporters. This photo, very realistic, sparked a huge controversy. All the more so in that no mention was made of its having been created by an AI.

Between fears for the future of certain professions, raising questions concerning intellectual property and new work-related possibilities, AIs are once again the focus of debate. A subject which we have obviously not heard the last of on kingkong.

This article was written by Alexine Somville and Lucie Roulet, the kingkong team.

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