The winner of the creative open category at the Sony World Photography Award, German artist Boris Eldagsen, has refused his prize after revealing that his winning entry, entitled Pseudomnesia: The Electrician, was an AI creation. Eldagsen admitted to using the picture to test the competition and to create a discussion about the future of photography. However, the organisers of the award have claimed that Eldagsen misled them about the extent of AI that would be involved in the creation of the image.
Eldagsen’s image featured a haunting black-and-white portrait of two women from different generations, but it was revealed that the image was synthetically-produced and not a real photograph. Eldagsen claimed that “AI images and photography should not compete with each other in an award like this” and therefore refused to accept the award. He also suggested donating the prize to a photo festival hosted in Odesa, Ukraine.
The use of AI in photography has been widely debated in recent months, especially in regards to deepfakes. The Sony World Photography Organisation, the photography strand of art events organisers Creo, claimed that Eldagsen had confirmed that the piece was a “co-creation” of his image using AI and that it fulfilled the criteria for the creative open category.
The organisers recognised “the importance of this subject [AI] and its impact on image-making today” but stressed the awards “always have been and will continue to be a platform for championing the excellence and skill of photographers and artists working in the medium.” They also stated that they were looking forward to engaging in a more in-depth discussion on this topic with Eldagsen.
The power of AI technology continues to increase, making it ever harder for photographers and artists to distinguish AI-generated images from photographs. The use of AI in photography has also raised ethical and legal questions, including the issue of who owns the copyright for an AI image. Many artists and photographers accuse AI systems of unfairly exploiting the works of hundreds of thousands of human creators on which the systems are trained, with some launching legal action.
Overall, the controversy surrounding Eldagsen’s AI-generated image highlights the need for further discussion and exploration of the role of AI in photography and its impact on the industry.