To look at Jos Avery‘s Instagram account is to be greeted by a sea of beautiful portrait photographs staring right back at you. The sheer number and variety is staggering, and his 27K+ followers seem to agree, often asking for tips and tricks to emulate the photographer they hold in esteem.
Except that there is one issue. Namely that none of these ‘photos’ were taken with a camera. Avery has recently ‘come out’ and admitted that all of them were created using Midjourney, an AI image generator.
To the eagle eye, it’s almost obvious that these are not photographs. AI generated images, particularly those created in Midjourney, still have a particular ‘look’ to them. These are no exception. However, to most people, they are indistinguishable from the real thing. Avery has even made up stories to accompany each image to give insight as to who the people are.
“[My Instagram account] has blown up to nearly 12K followers since October, more than I expected,” Avery says to Ars Technica. “Because it is where I post AI-generated, human-finished portraits. Probably 95%+ of the followers don’t realize. I’d like to come clean.”
However, Avery insists that these images are still art, just produced in a different way. After generating thousands of images in Midjourney, the best are selected and then put through editing in both Lightroom and Photoshop.
Avery admits that he was initially an “AI-skeptic” and began the Instagram account as an experiment. “I am honestly conflicted,” Avery says. “My original aim was to fool people to showcase AI and then write an article about it. But now, it has become an artistic outlet. My views have changed.”
Many of Avery’s followers have clearly been taken in by the deception, many of whom have asked which camera settings and camera equipment he used to shoot the images. Avery remained vague in answering these questions. It remains to be seen whether he will face backlash from his followers.
However, Avery admits that he himself is at a creative crossroads, not really knowing which way to turn. “Frankly, I’m not entirely sure how to proceed,” Avery tells Ars. “The Instagram response has taken me off guard. Flushing 15K followers is not easy to do. The end art product resonates with people.”
It’s a conundrum many artists are facing, with those using AI within their work receiving pushback from more ‘traditional’ artists. It’s certainly an interesting time to be an artist. I believe that we should view AI as another tool to be used to realsie our creative expression. It should not do all the heavy lifting, nor should it be passed off as photography or any other hand-made medium.
Just last month, an AI generated image won a photography competition. I believe that it is in all of our best interests to be 100% transparent and honest about how we create our work and what tools we are using.
These just don’t look real to me. Would you have been fooled?