As artificial intelligence (AI) technology continues to develop, so too does the ability to create realistic images with the help of AI.
I have been spending some time testing out how good this new technology really is, trying to figure out who has the creative control, how I feel about being removed from the process, and how as a photographer, I can take advantage of this new tech while sitting in my living room in the middle of North Yorkshire.
But how to classify them, not photographs and not paintings, somewhere in the middle, perhaps?
The Death of Artists?
Does the plethora of new ai image generator applications spell the end for artists and photographers or just as when Photoshop arrived, and everyone was concerned that it would destroy creative industries, will it just become another tool in the creative arsenal? How can I, as a photographer, leverage this new technology to my creative advantage?
As someone who has been creating imagery, in one form or another, all of my life, this whole process has me at odds with the legitimacy of calling any of these images my creations. Even though I have spent a great deal of time and effort crafting and experimenting with phrases and prompts to tease out artworks that don’t look like a robot or a child has created them. My early efforts produced a whole spectrum of disasters, with sometimes comical and sometimes gruesome results.
I do still feel detached somehow from the creative process.
They are, after all, rendered by an algorithm that was written by a coding genius or team of technicians that put my HTML and PHP skills to shame.
However, I do find them beautiful, alluring, and mystical, and I also feel a sense of ownership somehow. Like Golem and his ring, they are my precious…
All that glitters is not gold, or is it?
As I write this Hannah, my daughter, has just walked in and is immediately incensed by my questions of provenance. As she puts it: “the computer has created the images, not you. They are already there. You’re just finding it, dad. Anyone can do it.”
Is that the fundamental point? “anyone can do it”
Am I like a miner or a metal detectorist? Scratching the surface to reveal a mishmash of merged images, the finished render as a final computational picture. So does that process in and of itself make it legitimate? There is a certain skill to creating prompts and descriptions, after all, like the guy in the field that has a certain skill with his beeping contraption, trying to find the ancient coins. Don’t I also have some claim over the treasure?
According to the software company I created them with, I have copyright control, so I can actually sell them as unique works of art under my name… but should I?
What should I do with them if not sell them as original prints?
Originals or deep fakes?
Some prompters use other artists’ names and styles to recreate work that wouldn’t or couldn’t exist, such as Ronald Mcdonald on the moon by Davinci or Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, but instead of sunflowers using the rather comical head of Donald Trump, the list goes on and the speed at which they are being created s breathtaking, this same speed pails into insignificance when you think about how fast the algorithms are learning and evolving, are we just feeding the beast?
Calls of plagiarism have been coming thicker and faster lately, and with companies like Getty images banning all AI-generated art from the stock site, there will no doubt be more controversy to follow.
None of the images in this series have had any artist names as prompts, but somehow some of them do remind me of something… I can’t quite put my finger on it. Is it someone I recognise or a style I have seen before, perhaps?
Who are they?
Copyright issues aside, this also brings up a moral question, if these particular portraits are made from using millions of photographs from around the internet, will there be times when the likeness is so overwhelming that it could cause harm, offence or pain.
I have run several reverse image lookup searches on Google and have yet to find a match, perhaps there never will be one. A nose from here, a pair of eyes from there a nice smile from over there, all of the features needed to produce a face, seamlessly rendered together perhaps would make it impossible to make an exact match, I doubt it though, we all have a doppelgänger or two… Its probably just a matter of time.
At the end of the day
I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let… let’s evolve, let the chips fall where they may.
– Tyler Durden
So irrelevant movie quotes aside, where do I find myself with these images….
AI is here to stay. In fact, photoshop has been using it for years and recently unveiled plans to introduce science-fiction level AI integration in future Adobe software.
“The camera never lies” is so outdated, even without AI. It seems that soon, if not already, you won’t need a camera to take a picture of someone. Just ask the algorithms.
As for how it will help my practice, the jury is still out, although I do have some exciting ideas that may or may not come to fruition…
About the Author
Based in North Yorkshire, servicing local & national clients, Jason Ferdinando specializes in photography and creative direction for small to large companies. You can see more of his work on his website and Instagram account. This article was also published here and shared with permission.