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Sydney lab makes amends for AI mishap

Sydney print lab, Charing Cross Photo, has apologised and taken full responsibility for wrongly disqualifying a photo from its contest for being ‘AI’, and going public with the matter without contacting the entrant.

Suzi Dougherty’s wrongly disqualified photo has been preserved in this print. Source: Charing Cross Photo Instagram/Suzi Dougherty.

The lab owner received a barrage of criticism on his Instagram business profile for announcing the disqualification without contacting entrant Suzi Dougherty, and publishing updates that acknowledged the mistake but fell short of an apology.

Here’s an excerpt from our coverage:

The photo, captured by Suzi Dougherty, shows her son alongside two mannequins at a Gucci prop exhibition at Powerhouse Museum. Rather than contact Dougherty about their suspicion, CCP jumped the shark and, potentially motivated by recent high-profile AI media stories, posted a statement on Instagram.
‘In our most recent photo competition, CCP received an image that first intrigued all the judges and then suspicion set in so we decided not to include the photo for judging,’ Charing Cross Photo wrote in a post on Instagram showing the photo, captured by Suzi Dougherty.

CCP published an update stating that Dougherty called and informed them the photo was real, captured in a museum with two mannequins, who do look somewhat AI-ish. The update doesn’t include an apology to the photographer, or an explanation why judges felt it was AI and the choice to go public.

Some Instagram comments from earlier in July:

‘This is yet another example of the arrogance of the so-called “judges of art”,’ writes user @winesellaro. ‘Instead of recognizing the mistake and apologizing, you guys make things worse by “adding to the apology” a recommendation (from the point of view of an obviously flawed judging board): “this may serve as a reminder to provide valid information when it comes to a competition”. No, mate. This serves as a PR guide of what not to do when you, as a competition organizer, mess up.’

‘Wild that your guys went on a full-throated attack against the photographer without even making the most miniscule effort to identify authenticity of the photos for which you have a “competition”,’ – @tad.beavers.

‘What a ridiculous “apology” where you blame the photographer for 1) not giving enough info but also 2) her photo not being able to seem real enough *without* any info. You’ve made it so she can’t win. I agree with the other commenter that this is a poor-taste attack on the photographer who did nothing wrong, and a bad faith response to your own mistake’ –@jaclynrhu.

Iain Anderson, owner of Charing Cross Photo, now describes his actions in an update as a “villainous failure” for not conducting proper due diligence. He’s since printed and displayed Dougherty’s photo, which is for sale for $500 with the money going to the photographer, as well as pledging $250 to a charity of her choice.

Here’s the full apology post:

Dougherty wrote this reply thanking Anderson.

‘I have always been a big fan of your business and the high quality of the work you do. I am flattered that the photo was highly regarded and I am happy to be part of a ‘mistake’ I am a big believer in making mistakes and what can be achieved through them. I love how you have printed and framed the photograph and I have enjoyed our journey. Thank you.’

And just like that, Instagram commentariat tide turned in Charing Cross Photo’s favour.

‘YO! This is a solid apology. Obviously I’m just a random on the internet but to me this absolves the dude from everything. He’s obviously trying to make amends at this point. Cheers to this company.’ – user @regellion

‘Nice one Iain, you have handled it very well mate!’ -@pixelperfectprolab

‘Well said Iain ! You have handled it with great transparency. People are going to make mistakes and you have owned yours and it will be a lesson to everyone about the future situation with AI pictures and how we should deal with them . Best of luck in this ever changing world of photography.’ – @lukekellyphoto

‘Anyone who knows Iain knows he’s a sincere and committed person to local artists and the community. If you doubt his sincerity in his apology then I hazard a guess you don’t know Iain at all.’ – @Janinehall_art

And so on.

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