Artist sparks controversy by winning photography prize with AI-generated artwork


Artist sparks controversy by winning photography prize with AI-generated artwork
A German artist entered the image as a statement about the role of AI technology in art. 

Despite winning a top photography prize, artist Boris Eldagsen chose to refuse the award. That’s because his winning image depicting two women of different generations, was generated by artificial intelligence.

Eldagsen’s piece was award the prize in the creative open category at the Sony World Photography Awards last week. Later, Eldagsen revealed that the image, titled PSEUDOMNESIA | The Electrician, was made using AI technology.

In a statement on his website, the photographer said he “applied as a cheeky monkey” to see whether the competition would be prepared for AI images to enter.

“How many of you knew or suspected that it was AI generated? Something about this doesn’t feel right, does it?” read his statement.

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


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Eldagsen asked the prize be donated to the fotofestival in Odesa, Ukraine.

The image has since been taken down from the Sony World Photography Awards website. A spokesperson for the World Photography Organisation said they knew Eldagsen has “co-created” the image with AI before announcing him as winner.

“As he has now decided to decline his award we have suspended our activities with him and in keeping with his wishes have removed him from the competition. Given his actions and subsequent statement noting his deliberate attempts at misleading us, and therefore invalidating the warranties he provided, we no longer feel we are able to engage in a meaningful and constructive dialogue with him.”

In response, Eldagsen claimed that this statement was false. “Pretending that they you knew the picture was AI is wrong. I told one of your assistants in length, but then after the press release your PR executive contacted me, being surprised about all the inquiries regarding my image and asking for more info.”


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