The image entitled ‘Childhood,’ won an open competition in the lifestyle category for the 2023 Sony World Photography Awards. (Source: photo of image by Azim Khan Ronnie of Bangladesh)

Pressure Builds in Competitions When Judges Choose AI Images over Human-Made Ones

The website is shared a story about a “cheeky monkey” photographer who won a Sony-sponsored image contest and then refused the award. While the report explains what happened when another AI-produced image won another prize it also points out the friction that is building between film photographers and AI image generators.

Lots of people still use cameras and create art with their knowledge of photography. A German photographer entered Sony’s World Photography contest to highlight the problem of AI competing with artists.

Boris Eldagsen, a career photographer from Berlin, submitted an AI-generated image for the 2023 Sony World Photography Awards (SWPA) in the Creative category. He said he disclosed that the work was made using AI to both Sony and the competition organizer, Creo Arts. According to the story, neither would acknowledge it until he announced it to the media.

Eldagsen created “The Electrician” (2022), based on the photos of Roger Ballen. He generated it on Dall-E 2 using text prompts, inpainting and outpainting. When Eldagsen submitted “The Electrician” to three photography contests including the SWPA, he intended to test the judgment panels of each competition to see if they were discerning real photography from AI works.

“It was not about winning anything,” he told Hyperallergic. “I have been a photographer for 30 years before turning to AI and I’m very involved in the German scene in making workshops, lectures, and helping to draft up proposals for AI-related legislation.”

The article reveals the lack of communication between the contest sponsors and the photographer. He states he was trying to start a dialogue about AI and photography. He was amazed that he would still be declared the winner of the SWPA after he told the judges it was an AI-generated image.

A portion of the image ‘The Electrician,” which won in the Creative category of the Sony World Photography Awards. (Source: Boris Eldagsen)

As it turns out, SWPA’s submission guidelines had no clauses about AI art and did not require original image files from applicants.

Eldagsen proposed the idea of an open panel to acknowledge the proliferation of AI-generated work and the creation of a new category for AI-generated entries. According to Eldagsen, the World Photography Organisation contact responded that it was fine and continued to offer him the award even after he said it should be given to someone else.

The World Photography Organisation responded to the website’s request for comment by saying that Eldagsen didn’t follow the rules of the competition in which each artist needs to “warrant” or confirm that they created the photography.

“In our correspondence he explained how following ‘two decades of photography, my artistic focus has shifted more to exploring creative possibilities of AI generators’ and further emphasising the image heavily relies on his ‘wealth of photographic knowledge’. As per the rules of the competition, the photographers provide the warranties of their entry.”

The organization spokesperson said that Eldagsen made “deliberate attempts at misleading us,” and invalidated the warranties he provided.