Artist sparks angry row over AI work that won prestigious photo award
A German artist has sparked anger after winning a prestigious photography prize with an entry generated by artificial intelligence.
Boris Eldagsen has finally dismissed the Sony World Photography Awards gong after concluding that these competitions are not yet equipped to handle AI entries.
Prize organizers initially accused the artist of “deceptive” behavior, but withdrew the accusation from a later statement after a furious response from Eldagsen on Tuesday.
Many photographers and artists fear that their livelihoods will be threatened by artificial intelligence tools that allow anyone to create striking images with just a quick text prompt.
The rapid rise of AI image generators has already sparked lawsuits because the tools are “trained” on large numbers of images, many of which could be copyrighted.
Last year, an AI-generated artwork won an award at the Colorado State Fair, sparking soul-searching in the art world.
The Sony World Photography Awards announced Eldagsen – a sepia-toned image of two women titled “Pseudomnesia: The Electrician” – as the winner of its creative category in mid-March.
Eldagsen gave interviews at the time explaining how he did the work and saying he wanted to spark a debate about AI.
However, he wrote last week that “AI images and photography should not compete in an award like this” and rejected the award.
“I applied as a cheeky monkey, to find out if the contests are prepared for AI images to enter. They are not,” he wrote.
The awards body said in its initial response that it was eager to engage the artist in a discussion about AI, but removed the work “in accordance with his wishes”.
His statement added: “In view of his actions and the subsequent statement noting his deliberate attempts to mislead us, and therefore to invalidate the guarantees he has provided, we no longer feel able to engage a meaningful and constructive dialogue with him.”
But Eldagsen wrote on its website that it was “absurd” to suggest the awards body had been willing to engage.
“They had so many options to use it for good. They didn’t use any of them,” he wrote, accusing them of ignoring questions from the media and other photographers.
The organizers then sent an edited version of the statement to AFP removing the accusation that they had been misled, but insisting that they were ready to engage with Eldagsen and the debate on the AI.
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