Boris Eldagsen, a German artist, won the creative open category at the Sony World Photography Award, but he refused his prize after unveiling that his winning entry, titled “Pseudomnesia: The Electrician,” was produced using artificial intelligence (AI). The picture, a black-and-white portrait of two women from different generations, was a synthetically produced image, which Eldagsen created to examine the future of photography and test the competition.
Misleading the Organizers of Sony World Photography Award 2023
Organizers of the award revealed that Eldagsen misled them about the extent of AI that he used to create the image. In a statement posted on his website, Eldagsen questionied whether they knew or suspected that it was AI-generated. He asserted that AI images and photography are different entities and should not compete with each other in an award like this.
Ethics of AI and Photography
The debate on the appropriateness and utility of AI in different fields, including medicine and therapy, has been ongoing in recent months. Now, its usage in photography, especially in creating deepfakes, has fuelled ethical debates. A spokesperson for the World Photography Organisation, the photography strand of art events organisers Creo, said that Eldagsen confirmed to them, before being announced as the winner, that the piece was a "co-creation" of his image using AI. The creative category of the open competition welcomes various experimental approaches to image-making, from cyanotypes and rayographs to cutting-edge digital practices.
The organizers of the award recognized the importance of the AI subject and its impact on image-making today but emphasized that the awards always have been and will continue to be a platform for championing the excellence and skill of photographers and artists working in the medium. Following Eldagsen's decision to decline his award, they suspended their activities with him and removed him from the competition.