Photographer’s AI image wins top Sony contest but he won’t take the prize

AI image and artist denying the prizeBoris Eldagsen

An AI image has won the Sony World Photography Awards in a massive upset. However, the creator has rejected the prize in order to “speed up” the conversation about photography and generative AI.

A German photographer has won the Sony World Photography Awards with an image made with an AI program. The image depicts two women taken in an old black-and-white style, with some edits to make it look convincing.

Boris Eldagsen entered the image from his 2022 collection PSEUDOMNESIA: Fake Memories. Created entirely with AI and software, Eldagsen won the open competition and organizers even had the image on display.

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Eldagsen has been producing photography and images for the last 30 years, with a new focus on creating images using generative AI in the last few months.

German photographer rejects prize after submitting AI image

The winning image made with AIBoris Eldagsen

However, Eldagsen announced at the awards event in London that he would not be accepting the prize:

“Thank you for selecting my image and making this a historic moment, as it is the first AI-generated image to win in a prestigious international PHOTOGRAPHY competition.

“I applied as a cheeky monkey, to find out, if the competitions are prepared for AI images to enter. They are not.

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“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?

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“With my refusal of the award, I hope to speed up this debate.”

Eldgasen wasn’t invited to give a speech about the image but paid for his own trip to London from Berlin out of pocket to refuse the award in public. The prize was around $5000 worth of Sony equipment.

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In an interview with Talking Pictures, Eldagsen said that he had entered the competition in previous years, but this was the first time he’d ever been shortlisted.

Since announcing that this was an AI-generated image, Eldagsen’s entry has been removed from display and the website, with Sony nor the event organizers making mention of the image directly.

Fake images start to seep into the public

AI imagery has been in the conversation recently after a few viral images turned out to be faked. An image of the Pope in a designer jacket is the best example, as it was discovered a couple of days after entering the public consciousness that it was created within an AI image generator.

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The rat race for AI services has ramped up massively, especially within the creative space. Bing AI can now generate images based on DALL-E 2, and Google plans to bring the same concept to Google Search with their project, dubbed Magi.

A recent Reddit scam utilized a fake AI woman to sell explicit images to unsuspecting users.