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Photographer wins AI image contest with a real-life picture only to be disqualified later

Aiming to spread a powerful message, the photographer entered a real photograph he captured into the AI category.

Photographer wins AI image contest with a real-life picture only to be disqualified later
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Andre Furtado

From advanced research to simple everyday utilities, artificial intelligence has become an integral part of our lives. It has silently made our lives so easy that a detox from technology would be almost impossible for many. What bothers many people is how AI has also encroached on the world of creativity. It can potentially replace photographers, artists, musicians and other creators. Building on this concern, a photographer recently entered a real photo he captured into an AI image contest and even won, as per PetaPixel. But soon, things backfired.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Tara Winstead
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Tara Winstead

Miles Astray had a motive when he entered his original work into the "AI category" of the 1839 Color Photography Awards. "I wanted to show that nature can still beat the machine and that there is still merit in real work from real creatives," he told the outlet. The remarkable photo captured a flamingo standing on a white-sanded shore with its head, probably, buried within its back feathers. Astray named this incredible shot "Flamingone" and asked his followers to vote for his photography on Instagram. This photo not only impressed the judges who awarded it third place but also garnered the maximum votes from people making it the winner of the "People's Vote" award category.

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A post shared by Miles Astray (@milesastray)


"After seeing recent instances of AI-generated imagery beating actual photos in competitions, I started thinking about turning the story and its implications around by submitting a real photo into an AI competition," Astray explained. Surprisingly, none of the competition's judges suspected the image to be a real capture. Experts from The New York Times, Getty Images, Phaidon Press, Christie's and Maddox Gallery were on the panel and everyone considered Astray's entry worthy of an award. However, knowing the truth behind the picture, Astray was eventually disqualified. In a statement to the media channel, the competition organizers expressed their appreciation for Astray's motive of spreading a "powerful message," yet they had to be fair to other artists.

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A post shared by 1839 Awards (@1839awards)


So, the award was revoked and the announcement of the winners of the 1839 Awards did not feature Astray's work. "Our contest categories are specifically defined to ensure fairness and clarity for all participants," a spokesperson for the competition said. "Each category has distinct criteria that entrants' images must meet. His submission did not meet the requirements for the AI-generated image category. We understand that was the point, but we don't want to prevent other artists from their shot at winning in the AI category," they added. Calling it a "message of hope," the organizers believe that Astray's win might bring awareness to artists concerned about AI replacing them.

Speaking of AI replacing artists, a professor developed a tool named "Nightshade," which poisons AI image generators to safeguard artists. Since original artworks are being stolen and used by AI generators, a computer science professor, Ben Zhao, from the University of Chicago, came up with Nightshade, as per My Modern Met. This manipulative tool will inject the invisible pixel into the plagiarists' artwork and when it is uploaded to an AI set, the image will be distorted. Only the ability to copy the artwork will be impacted, so AI generators will only use legitimately licensed content to train their AI.



You can follow Miles Astray (@milesastray) on Instagram for more photographic content.

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