A Sydney-based artificial intelligence art studio has performed a marketing stunt and declared it a ‘turning point’, by winning digiDirect’s Weekly Photo Contest with an AI generated image.
Absolutely AI came clean in an Instagram post, gloating the company had generated ‘the world’s first AI generated award-winning photograph’.
‘It’s not an exaggeration to say that we’ve reached the point where machine is now the superior artist to man,’ Absolutely AI founder, Jamie Sissons, wrote in the Instagram post. ‘History may look back on our little photography experiment as a turning point when we started to notice the new world we’re living in.’
The agency describes entering the contest as a test to prove that ‘an AI generated image [could] not only slip by unnoticed (not one person who has seen the image has sensed anything out of the ordinary) but actually be awarded the top prize by a photography expert?’
AI generated images are undeniably impressive. While they frequently include minor rendering errors, the technology is still new and it’s remarkable the graphics are generated instantly. That being said, Absolutely AI is exaggerating about the significance of winning the digiDirect contest.
The digiDirect Weekly Photo Contest is free to enter, with the lucky winner scoring a $100 voucher. The theme for this contest was Summer, the next contest theme is At The Zoo. DigiDirect doesn’t list the contest judge/s, or the judging criteria, and the rules are basic terms and conditions about copyright ownership, etc. The contest webpage has basic, bland formatting, and the competition is barely promoted. There are no sponsors or organisers to contact.
It’s labelled by digiDirect as a ‘promotion’, and the purpose is to generate engagement with customers. A fun way for digiDirect to build a relationship with photography enthusiasts.
In other words, it’s not a prestigious award that’s going on a photographer’s CV. There isn’t a diverse panel of esteemed judges – photography experts – who whittle down the entries to a small pool of finalists, and then pontificate the merit of each to determine the winner. It’s more likely the marketing department picks the first entry that catches their eye.
DigiDirect hasn’t even addressed the controversy, or responded directly to Absolutely AI. No statement has been issued, or an edit to the Instagram post where the winner was announced. The specialist retailer may be slightly embarrassed, given it’s in the business of selling photography gear, which wasn’t directly required to make this award-winning image.
And the winning picture features the aforementioned rendering errors that don’t quite match reality. For instance the swell lines run horizontal; the broken wave on the shore parts into nothing; the golden light doesn’t match the sun’s position; the back-lit wave looks off. A photography expert would likely pick up on these mistakes, although they may even like them! Plenty of photography gurus strongly advocate for the merit of surreal and otherworldly elements in photography. However, it slipped passed digiDirect’s Weekly Photo Contest judge/s.
Although Absolutely AI’s picture is more impressive than many of the ‘photo realistic’ images generated by the likes of Dall E 2. Here is our attempt at generating an award-winning image with similar elements:
Absolutely AI founder, Jamie Sissons, didn’t explain to Inside Imaging how the winning image was made, however a generic list of responses suggests it was using an AI image generator.
‘Artificially intelligent technology has the capacity to learn from the masters of photography, painting and other creative endeavours to produce something entirely new and jaw-dropping,’ he said in a prepared response. ‘This technology is equally incredible and terrifying from a creator’s point of view. And this is just the beginning. In five years, things will look very different. The barriers to creating something truly eye-catching have never been lower. Our award-winning ‘photograph’ is a good example of that.
‘We didn’t need to wake up at sunrise, drive to the beach and send the drone up to capture this image of surfers paddling against the waves. No, we created this image from our couch in Sydney by entering text into a computer program. “Create me an image of two surfers at sunrise, drone shot, beautiful lighting, wave crashing”.’
Here is Absolutely AI’s full statement from Instagram:
This week, we won a popular @digidirect photography competition by entering a drone shot of a pair of surfers at sunrise.
It’s a beautiful image, but it’s not real. It’s the world’s first AI generated award-winning photograph.
After learning that we’d won, we came clean to the company running the competition and returned the cash prize. So why did we do it?
We did it to prove that we’re at a turning point with artificially intelligent technology by passing the ultimate test. Could an AI generated image not only slip by unnoticed (not one person who has seen the image has sensed anything out of the ordinary) but actually be awarded the top prize by a photography expert?
The answer is resoundingly yes.
We will look back on this time as the time everything changed. The genie is out of the bottle and there’s no going back as automation moves into our everyday lives.
Recently we have seen ChatGPT pass law, business and medical exams but no one has been discussing the impact that AI will have on the creative industries.
Back to our award-winning ‘photograph…’
We entered the photography competition using the name Jan van Eycke, the same name as the 15th century painter who is known for creating the most stolen artwork of all time.
Or to be more accurate, was the most stolen artwork…until now.
The surfers in our image never existed. Neither does that particular beach or stretch of ocean. It’s made up of an infinite amount of pixels taken from infinite photographs that have been uploaded online over the years by anyone and everyone.
Every AI artwork has the capacity to steal millions or even billions of elements from paintings, photos and videos to create something new and breathtaking.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that we’ve reached the point where machine is now the superior artist to man.
History may look back on our little photography experiment as a turning point when we started to notice the new world we’re living in.
That’s why we’ve titled our controversial award winner.
THE MOST STOLEN PHOTOGRAPH OF ALL TIME