People have entered staged, composited, and even AI images into art and photography contests. But this time, a genuine photo was disqualified from a photography contest because the judges thought it was created using AI image generators. Welcome to creativity hell!
Suzi Dougherty took a photo of her son at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. It shows him posing with two mannequins at a Gucci exhibition, and Suzi took it with her iPhone. Pleased with her shot, she entered it in the Charing Cross Photo contest.
According to The Guardian, four judges considered the photo and loved it. However, then they raised concerns over it being AI-generated – and they decided to reject it. “In our most recent photo competition, CCP received an image that first intrigued all the judges,” the judges wrote on Instagram. “And then suspicion set in so we decided not to include the photo for judging.”
They went on talking about the use of AI and, while they might consider accepting such images in the future, they’re not welcome for now. ” It’s a murky area at present and until we work out how best to fairly judge these images, we just can’t accept them,” they wrote
Not surprisingly, Suzi was shocked to receive the news. “I wouldn’t even know how to do an AI photo, I’m just getting my head around ChatGPT,” she told The Guardian. Still, she doesn’t seem to be bitter about it- The only regret she has is that she didn’t win, as she jokingly said. She thought that it was flattering, and her son, Caspar, thought that the whole situation was hilarious.
The contest’s “apology”
A few days after the incident, the contest jury posted a new statement on Instagram, “apologizing” to the photographer for their mistake. I’m putting it under quotes because this isn’t really an apology. See for yourself:
“We have an update regarding AI [artificial intelligence] and this photo from our recent photo competItion for FASHION.
The photographer called CCP today and confirmed the image is a real creation. However, the setting happens to be in a museum for a fashion show so the person in front is the son and the other two figures in the back are mannequins.
It is a great play on what is real and not in our world indeed. Sadly for the entrant the timing was not great considering that AI is such a hot topic, and without the background info we felt the need to question the entire image.
We can conform that this photo did not contravene our T&C’s.
We thank the entrant for being understanding with this. They expressed a delight in helping to create the conversation about AI.. It is still a hot topic for us all.. so lets keep chatting..
In the meantime this may serve as a reminder to provide valid information with images when it comes to a competition. The judges and competition team don’t always share those captions. The information required is well considered before revealing any detail. The image after all needs to stack up on its own.. just not be an AI.
We hope the photographer keeps shooting new pics and might even enter the comp again.. @ccphotocomp
We really do appreciate your honourable response to all the comments on our socials..”
Iain Anderson, the owner of the Sydney printer Charing Cross Photo, told The Guardian that the judges all loved the photo at first, but then he said, “Hang on it looks a little AI-ish.” He added that they started talking about it and went well, but since they weren’t sure about whether or not it was AI, tey relied on their suspicions and disqualified it. And shared a lengthy Instagram post about it, without first checking in with the photographer, if I may add.
But wait, can’t you just check the metadata? I’m sure this popped in your head as it did in mine. Anderson claims that he looked at the metadata on the image but he “wasn’t able to tell if it was AI or not.”
The public was furious
The comments on both CCP’s Instagram posts show that this made photographers furious. “That’s why I hardly ever enter photo competitions,” one comment reads. “Judges just saying ‘fake’ without even consulting the photographer.” Another person wrote “You really can’t ignore the gut instincts of four judges.’ —TRANSLATION: Making decisions based on making things up.” All the comments I read are written in this tone, and I think it’s rightfully so. First, a real photo was disqualified because “it looked AI-ish” and it was only done based on the judge’s hunch. Then, they didn’t check in with the photographer before publishing this post. They only did it after they cause some reactions from the public. And then, they posted an “apology” that isn’t even an apology.
Can the photographer enter the contest again?
While all of this charade lasted, the contest ended, and Suzi can’t enter the same photo anymore. But she told The Guardian that she might enter the next one with the architecture theme. She seems pretty light-hearted about the whole thing and I honestly love it. “They said I don’t have to pay the entry fee so I probably will [enter] – just for fun.”