Photographer disqualified after winning AI art contest with real photo

Rosalie Newcombe
Photo by Caio on

A real-life photo of a Flamingo has won an AI Photography competition, taking home not just one prize, but two.

With the tech industry’s infatuation with everything AI, the existence of AI photography contests should come as no surprise. The advancements of programs like Midjourne, Dall-E, and Stable Diffusion have regularly tricked onlookers that AI generative images are the real thing.

Now, things have turned on their head. Instead of an AI image being mistaken for the real thing, a real-life photo has done the opposite – and won an AI photography contest.

Photographer Miles Astray entered his photo of a Flamingo into the 2024 1829 Awards, a series of competitions centered around photography. The photo, entitled ‘F L A M I N G O N E’ features the stunning wading bird, in all its pink glory, looking as stunning as it is unworldly.

Screenshot of the 2024 AI category winners for the 1839 Awards.

The photo ended up winning not just one award, but two, including the Bronze award in the judge’s category and the Peoples Vote Award. However, despite how otherworldly the photo looks, it wasn’t AI generated at all, and in fact a genuine photo of a flamingo hiding its head from view.

As originally reported by Android Authority, Miles Ashtray captured the photo not using Stable Diffusion, but with his Nikon D750 camera. With the DSLR camera in tow, Ashtray used a 50mm lens to take the photo at a beach in Aruba back in 2022. The photo was then entered into the AI category, where the photographer also prompted fans on social media to vote for it within the People’s Choice Award.

Talking to Android Authority, Ashtray wears his explanation of entering the photo into an AI competition on his sleeve. The photographer explicitly submitted his work to take a jab at the “ethical implications” of AI.

Mile Ashtray explains, “There’s nothing more fantastic and creative than Mother Nature herself. I don’t demonize the new technology and see its potential, but currently, I see its limitations and dangers even more clearly.”

The result of Miles Ashtray’s clever deception didn’t go unnoticed. As expected, the 1839 Awards have since disqualified the entry, which was part of a wider AI category entered by a myriad of other photographers.

“His submission did not meet the requirements for the AI-generated image category. We understand that was the point, but we don’t want to prevent other artists from their shot at winning in the AI category”, a representative for the 1829 Awards stated to the website Petapixel.

As it stands, F L A M I N G O N E is now gone from the 1839 Award AI category. However, you can still view the photo on Miles Ashtray’s Instagram account.

Sign up to Dexerto for free and receive:
Fewer Ads|Dark Mode|Deals in Gaming, TV and Movies, and Tech