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The Winner of the Sony Photo Contest Refused the Award: His Picture Was Created by AI


The winner of the prestigious Sony World Photography Award in the field of photography refused the prize awarded to him, admitting that the work he submitted to the jury was created by artificial intelligence. The winners of the photo contest were announced last week. In the open creative category (that is, in addition to the established nominations), the victory was awarded to the photo artist from Germany, Boris Eldagsen, for his work called "Pseudomnesia: The Electrician" ("Pseudomnesia: The Electrician"). However, the winner refused the award, admitting that he cheated: the work he submitted for the competition was not created by him, but by an algorithm, that is, artificial intelligence. According to Eldagsen, in this way he wanted to check the work of the jury members and start a public discussion about the future of photography as an art.

The organizers of the competition assured the BBC that the German photographer misled them about how significant AI was involved in the creation of the work. Eldagsen posted an official statement about the refusal of the award on his website, frankly admitting that he was fooling around. Thanking the judges for acknowledging their work, he called the award itself a historic moment, stating that what he was most interested in now was to find out if any of the jury members had suspicions about participating in the creation of an AI image.

"In these kinds of competitions, images created by AI cannot compete on an equal footing with conventional images," says the German artist. "They are just different entities. AI is not photography. Therefore, I refuse the award," he explained.

The winning black-and-white photo is a portrait of two women with a noticeable age difference. And, as the author of the image assures, the "photo" is completely - from and to - generated by a machine algorithm based on the task.

A spokesman for the World Photography Organization acknowledged that even before the winners were announced, Eldagsen mentioned that his entry was a "collaborative work" created using AI. "The open creative category welcomes all sorts of experimental approaches to imaging, from cyanotype and radiography to advanced digital practices," he explained. "Therefore, after our correspondence with Boris [Eldagsen] and the guarantees he provided, we considered that his application met the criteria for participation in this category, and the application was accepted."

"Since he has now decided to withdraw his award, we - in accordance with his request - have suspended our cooperation and removed him from the competition," the spokesman added.

When an AI-generated image won a U.S. state art competition last September, the win sparked a controversy that has continued to this day. At the same time, the power of technology is growing literally by leaps and bounds. In the past, photographers and artists could console themselves by pointing out flaws in AI-generated images. Now it is becoming increasingly difficult to detect any obvious flaws in AI.

Last month, Tim Flack, president of the Association of Photographers, told me how shocked he was at the ease with which AI could "take a photo" of a tiger - just as good as the one he had taken before. With the difference that "his" tiger had to be locked up in a cage. A photography student who heard about this expressed concern about whether he would have any chance of getting a job in his specialty by the time he graduated from university.

Many artists and photographers have made accusations that AI algorithms allegedly misuse the work of hundreds of thousands of people who created the images that these systems are now training on. Some creators, concerned about their future, even sued computer scientists. Others see AI as just another working tool, perhaps a new art category, but no less valuable. Photography itself was once a new invention, they remind. And at that time, this new technology also seemed threatening to many.

However, many seemingly simple questions remain unanswered - for example, who owns the copyright to an image created using algorithms. AI technology in general has given rise to a host of ethical and legal questions that have yet to be answered.


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