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Artist Ditches Award for His Digital Image, You Won't Believe Why

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By Oscar Blair - - 5 Mins Read

An artist has raised controversy after refusing to accept an award for his digital image. One of the AI-generated images created by the artist won one of the world's most prestigious photography awards, but he refused to receive the award. He said he won the prize using AI-generated images instead of normal humanly-taken images. Despite rejecting the awards, the committee behind the awards has not commented on the matter. 

Berlin-based “photomedia artist” Boris Eldagsen participated in the awards that came with different monetary and equipment prizes. Anyone who came out as the award winner would be given a $5,000 reward and other photography equipment. The award's name is the World Photography Organization’s Sony World Photography Award. The award winner is also eligible for a trip to London for the award night festival and Sony camera equipment. The image which Boris Eldagsen submitted is called THE ELECTRICIAN. The photo was listed in the creative category of the awards, and it went on to win the category.

"The Eletrician" an artificial intelligence artwork by Boris Eldagsen
THE ELECTRICIAN by Boris Eldagsen

Boris Eldagsen Rejects the Award 

Despite coming top of the category, Boris Eldagsen has refused to take the award home for numerous reasons. He stated that he had started photography in 1989 and then shifted his focus to photomedia in 2000. He also jumped on the trend of using AI to create digital art. 

Boris spoke on the process of creating his digital art with AI image generators. "The work SWPA [Sony World Photography Awards] has chosen is the result of a complex interplay of prompt engineering, inpainting, and outpainting that draws on my wealth of photographic knowledge. For me, working with AI image generators is a co-creation, in which I am the director. It is not about pressing a button – and done it is. It is about exploring the complexity of this process, starting with refining text prompts, then developing a complex workflow, and mixing various platforms and techniques. The more you create such a workflow and define parameters, the higher your creative part becomes," Boris Eldagsen said.

Since winning the award, Boris Eldagsen has immediately rejected it, saying that it was an insult to his fellow creators to accept an award created for photographers. He noted that his generated images weren't created using photography. The rejection of the award was to help the organizers to know the difference between AI-generated images and photography. "Participating in open calls, I want to speed up the process of the Award organizers to become aware of this difference and create separate competitions for AI-generated images," the artist said. 

Boris Eldagsen Refusal Intentional 

Boris Eldagsen said he intentionally submitted the AI-generated images to know if the committee behind the award was prepared for AI. 

"I applied as a cheeky monkey, to find out, if the competitions are prepared for AI images to enter. They are not. 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," Boris Eldagsen said.