Yup, it’s happening – we now have a dedicated contest for AI images. The inaugural BIFB Prompted Peculiar — International AI Prize has just announced its winners. As it was probably expected, the contest has sparked some serious debates, and I’d like to share the images and give my two cents on the whole thing.
About the contest
BIFB Prompted Peculiar — International AI Prize is a part of BIFB (Ballart international Foto Bienalle). For the first AI category, it received over 100 submissions, with entrants from around Australia and countries including Sweden, Czech Republic, Israel, and Germany. The winners and shortlist of twenty works are displayed in an online gallery but also exhibited from September 23 to October 22 at BAaD Gallery & Events, 737 Sturt Street Ballarat.
“As new technology impacts visual culture, this prize is an invitation to debate where this new art of ‘promptography’ belongs,” the contest writes in a statement. I had a bit of a problem with the term “promptography” because it suggests that AI images have something to do with photography. However, the contest explains that it was popularized this year when photographer Boris Eldagsen turned down first prize in the Creative Open category of the Sony World Photography Awards because his image The Electrician was AI-generated.
“Overall, the entries displayed a playful enthusiasm for AI-generated image-making, with a heavy emphasis on the photographic,” the jury commented.
“The works shortlisted for exhibition display a range of creative approaches. The strongest works show – or hide! – evidence of pushing the idea and the technology beyond the gimmick, that is, beyond the first prompt or ‘first draft’. The artists’ statements also revealed there is a long way to go in articulating the creative process when using AI tools, both technically and conceptually.”
Annika Nordenskiöld from Sweden was selected as the overall prize winner for her work Twin Sisters in Love. “Of all the images submitted, the artist most convincingly managed to create an image that looks real and at the same time plays with our idea of reality,” the jury commented. “With its captivating subject, it touches on art historical and cultural references and subtly subverts the documentary photography genre.”
The contest also selects two Highly Commended images and the People’s Choice winner. Breeanna Hill’s image Digital Reverie: Nature’s Paradox 02, and Carolyn McKay’s Ghost Motel 01 were selected as Highly Commended. People’s Choice Winner is Hanna Silver with her image Robot Intermarriage.
Does art have a problem?
As I mentioned, this contest category hasn’t really made photographers happy. After all, we’ve seen an AI image win a fine art competition and the aforementioned Sony World Photography Awards. Photographers hated it, calling it cheating. I do agree with this – AI images are not photos and shouldn’t be submitted in photography contests. Not even under the “creative” and “photo manipulation” categories, if you ask me.
But on the other hand, we’ve seen tons of stolen images and staged photos winning contests. Remember the stuffed anteater that won a wildlife photo contest? Or a stolen image used for the design of the future Croatian €1 coin? That’s real photography, but it’s also cheating – big time!
Lawyer Alana Kushnir helped to work out the terms and conditions of the contest. She told The Sidney Morning Herald that “it was a courageous move on behalf of a photography festival to engage with AI.”
“We don’t have much guidance when it comes to the law in this space. We had to ask ourselves from an art history position, what is the difference between a photo and an image. There are parallels to when the camera was first invented – artists felt threatened. It will take time for the terms around IT and AI to align better.”
Personally, I think this is all perfectly fair. The contest clearly separated the AI category from the rest of the contest. It’s not masked as “digital art,” “photo manipulation,” “creative photography” or whatever. It’s AI imagery – and that’s what people submitted and got rewarded for.
Now, as for art – it’s definitely evolving and changing, and it’s happening fast. There’s so much we can talk about here, but I’ll try to keep it short. And I won’t explore the potential threats AI generators pose for photographers and digital artists. Not this time.
I think that the point of art is creating and expressing yourself. We all do it differently, and AI has just created a whole new method of doing it. The good side of it is that it’s available to those who can’t really paint or draw well (like me). It helps me turn some of the images in my head into “artworks,” and I’m not a threat to real artists as I don’t sell those or submit them to contests. Also, as long as there’s the need for creation, for learning, exploring new media – I don’t think art will die. And since this need is inherent to all human beings – I think we’re safe, even with AI generators in the game.