- A German artist won a Sony World Photography award using an AI-generated image.
- The artist declined the award in a push to judge photography and AI images separately in competition.
An artist who won a prestigious Sony World Photography award has refused to accept the award because it was partially generated by artificial intelligence.
German artist Boris Eldagsen said he declined the award in a push for photography and AI images to be judged separately in competition.
Eldagsen was named the creative category winner in the open competition on March 14 for his work titled “The Electrician.” The image is part of a series called Pseudomnesia, or “Fake memories.”
According to his website, the series was “co-produced” using artificial intelligence image generators and re-edited between 20 to 40 times.
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Organizers were ‘supportive of his participation’
Eldagsen said organizers initially knew nothing about his image being AI-generated.
According to him, he entered the competition without providing information about how the image was produced in December 2022.
But over the next few months, he found out he was shortlisted and sent over the image’s history of publication and eventually, its title.
The World Photography Organisation insists Eldagsen told organizers he had completed “co-creation” of the image using AI before the win was announced.
When he found out he won, Eldagsen said he told organizers that his work, and the image, were part of his attempt to explore AI generators. He also offered to hold an open discussion about the differences between AI-generated images and photography.
He said organizers were fine with him keeping the award but when they announced him as the winner, they didn’t explain that the image was AI-generated.
In a statement to USA TODAY, the organization said the creative category of the open competition that he won approves experimental approaches, including digital practices. Organizers approved his entry based on what he told them, the group said.
“We were supportive of his participation,” organizers said in a statement.
Eldagsen’s information and image were removed from the website.
His refusal of the award
On April 13 at an award ceremony in London, Eldagsen thanked judges for selecting his image but posed the questions “How many of you knew or suspected that it was AI generated? Something about this doesn’t feel right, does it?”
He argued that AI images do not count as photography nor should they be judged in the same competitions, refusing to accept the award.
He also called for an “open discussion” about what is considered photography and what isn’t.
“With my refusal of the award I hope to speed up this debate,” he said.
“I applied as a cheeky monkey, to find out, if the (competitions) are prepared for AI images to enter,” he said at the award ceremony in London. “They are not.”
Saleen Martin is a reporter on USA TODAY’s NOW team. She is from Norfolk, Virginia – the 757 – and loves all things horror, witches, Christmas, and food. Follow her on Twitter at @Saleen_Martin or email her at [email protected].