German winner of Sony World Photography Award refuses his prize after revealing his stunning black and white portrait of two women wasn’t all it seems
- Boris Eldagsen used AI photo to create discussion about future of photography
- The German artist admitted he had been a ‘cheeky monkey’ with his entry
- He explained that he would not accept award because ‘AI is not photography’
A German artist who won the Sony World Photography Award has refused to accept his prize after revealing his black and white portrait of two women was in fact created by AI.
Boris Eldagsen tricked competition organisers with his entry, Pseudomnesia: The Electrician – a haunting close-up of two women in a grainy sepia which won the creative open category last week.
He stunned organisers by rejecting the award, claiming that ‘AI is not photography’ – as he hopes to create a discussion surrounding the future of art.
The World Photography Organisation, who run the Sony awards, told MailOnline that they had been deliberately mis-led by Eldagsen about the extent to which AI would be involved.
In a statement on his website, Eldagsen, 52, described this as a ‘historic moment’, adding: ‘I applied as a cheeky monkey, to find out if the competitions are prepared for AI images to enter. They are not.
Boris Eldagsen tricked competition organisers with his entry, Pseudomnesia: The Electrician – a haunting close-up of two women in a grainy sepia which won the creative open category
‘AI images and photography should not compete with each other in an award like this. They are different entities. AI is not photography. Therefore I will not accept the award.’
Eldagsen, who has been a photographer for 30 years before turning to AI, is hoping his snub of the award at Somerset House in London can trigger a debate.
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He added: ‘We, the photo world, need an open discussion. A discussion about what we want to consider photography and what not. Is the umbrella of photography large enough to invite AI images to enter – or would this be a mistake?
‘With my refusal of the award I hope to speed up this debate.’
In gate-crashing the prestigious awards ceremony to reject the prize, Eldagsen has reignited a row over the rapid development of AI.
Recent fake photographs of Donald Trump being arrested and the Pope in a puffer jacket have raised concerns over the future of AI.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak are among those to have publicly declared their fears over the development of AI.
In an open letter on The Future of Life Institute, Musk and 100 others called for a pause on the ‘dangerous race’ to develop AI, arguing that humankind doesn’t yet know the full scope of the risk involved in advancing the technology.
They asked all AI labs to stop developing their products for at least six months while more risk assessment is done.
Musk and others fear that the technology will become so advanced that it will no longer require – or listen to- human interference.
Eldagsen (pictured), who has been a photographer for 30 years before turning to AI, is hoping his snub of the award at Somerset House in London can trigger a debate
Recent fake photographs of Donald Trump being arrested (left) and the Pope in a puffer jacket (right) have raised concerns over the future of AI
The World Photography Organisation said they were under the belief that Eldagsen’s entry was a a ‘co-creation’ of his image using AI which ‘fulfilled the criteria for this category’, adding: ‘We were supportive of his participation’.
He noted his interest in ‘the creative possibilities of AI generators’, they added, while ’emphasising the image heavily relies on his wealth of photographic knowledge’.
A spokesman added: ‘The Creative category of the Open competition welcomes various experimental approaches to image making from cyanotypes and rayographs to cutting-edge digital practices.
‘As such, 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 by preparing questions for a dedicated Q&A with him for our website.
‘As he has now decided to decline his award we have suspended our activities with him and in keeping with his wishes have removed him from the competition.
‘Given his actions and subsequent statement noting his deliberate attempts at misleading us, and therefore invalidating the warranties he provided, we no longer feel we are able to engage in a meaningful and constructive dialogue with him.
They continued: ‘We recognise the importance of this subject and its impact on image-making today. We look forward to further exploring this topic via our various channels and programmes and welcome the conversation around it.
‘While elements of AI practices are relevant in artistic contexts of image-making, 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.’
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