My name is Ed, and I’m a photographer from Alabama. Having shot for about 12 years now, I’ve always been fascinated by the ways technology can enhance and transform the art of photography. In this article, I explore the exciting new world of AI-generated images and the impact they’re having on the world of photography and art. Drawing on my experiences with AI tools, as well as my passion for film photography, I reflect on the ongoing debate around AI-generated images and their place in the art world.
Thanks to inspiration I found from street photographers on Instagram, I began taking photos with my iPhone in 2011 and created some amazing photos that I am still proud of to this day. At one point, I had over 20 editing apps on my phone after discovering an enjoyment of experimenting with the look of my photos.
In 2016, I got a DSLR, shooting on and off, slowly learning the basics of a “real” camera. A year later, in 2017, I was at a party and a friend took a photo of me with a disposable. I didn’t think much of it until I saw the photo and thought to myself, “This look and feel is exactly what I want my photos to have.” After seeing a Canon AE-1 at a photographer meetup the following year, I bought one on eBay and began learning how to shoot film (via Youtube). Since then, I’ve gotten into medium format, collected more film cameras, and have a pile of film in the bottom of my fridge. I love everything about film – the tones, the tangibility, and of course the way it makes you “slow down” when shooting.
Although my current camera of choice is a Pentax 6×7 from 1969, I’ve always been interested in science fiction, the future, and bleeding-edge technology. The past decade has been filled with exciting innovations related to blockchain, and more recently, artificial intelligence (AI). I found the world of “crypto art” in 2020, where digital artists were selling their artworks online. In 2021, I saw a couple of photographers doing the same thing, listing their work as NFTs and finding collectors, so I decided to try it out. I re-downloaded Twitter to share my work and connect with the NFT scene, and have made several sales since, which has been extremely rewarding.
Lately, I’ve been obsessed with the rapid advancements of AI, and have been using ChatGPT and Midjourney a lot. In case you’re unfamiliar, ChatGPT is a revolutionary AI chat bot that mimics human conversation and can write or answer just about anything in a matter of seconds. In fact, I’m using ChatGPT right now to help me better articulate parts of this article. Midjourney is a program that generates AI art using input text descriptions better known as “prompts”. I experimented with Midjourney last year and made some really cool work that I shared with my followers. A few liked it, but most didn’t really seem to care seeing that it was nothing close to my usual film photography.
Photorealism & The Great Debate
In the past few months, Midjourney has had a couple of game-changing updates that allow us to create images that look nearly identical to photographs. I’ve been using my own film photography as supplementary prompts by uploading them to Midjourney when generating images. The results have not only been astounding, but also more consistent with the look I am trying to achieve. Now, many of my followers assume my new AI images are real film photos.
Recently, a photographer entered an AI image into the Sony World Photography Awards 2023 and won! I was happy to see that he did not accept the prize and instead encouraged an open discussion of what to consider photography and what to not.
Many photographers and artists have been saying that anything created with the help of AI is not actually art. The problem I see with this statement is that it requires the viewer to know all the tools that the artist used in the creation process, which will become increasingly more difficult as AI technology advances. This has recently been a hotly debated topic online. So, to differentiate, artists have coined a few terms to describe this new genre of AI art that looks like photos: “post-photography,” “synthography,” and “AI photography.”
History Repeats Itself
In many ways, this debate is similar to the one that occurred when photography was first invented in the early 19th century. At the time, many artists and critics rejected photography as a valid art form, arguing that it was simply a mechanical process that lacked the creative touch of human hands. However, over time, photography gained acceptance as a legitimate medium of artistic expression, and photographers began to experiment with new techniques and styles that pushed the boundaries of the medium.
Similarly, when digital photography was first introduced, many film photographers were hesitant to embrace it as a legitimate form of art. They argued that digital images lacked the same texture, depth, and quality as traditional film photographs, and that they were too easy to manipulate and alter. Yet as digital technology continued to improve, many photographers came to accept and even embrace digital photography, and even tools like Photoshop, as a new and exciting medium of artistic expression.
Today, digital photography has become an integral part of the photography world, and is widely recognized as a legitimate form of art. Similarly, I believe that the ongoing debate around AI-generated photography reflects a similar shift in attitudes towards new technologies and their place in the art world. While some may argue that AI-generated images lack the same creative touch as traditional photography, others see it as an exciting new frontier that allows for even greater experimentation and creative expression.
In the end, the debate around AI-generated photography is ultimately a reflection of our changing attitudes towards technology and its impact on the world of art. As someone who’s always been interested in the intersection of photography and technology, I find the possibilities presented by AI-generated images to be both exciting and thought-provoking. While there are certainly valid concerns about the role of AI in the creative process, I believe that these new tools offer photographers an unprecedented level of experimentation and creative expression. As AI technology continues to evolve and improve, I’m excited to see where it takes us next.
Thanks for Reading!
Ed // edwllcxn
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68 thoughts on “AI Photography: My Journey Into A New Medium”
AI generated images is Art if done with the creative input of the artist.
It isn’t and can never be photography as no photo sensitive item is involved.
Well said! Thank you for reading!
My head hurts 🤕😀.
Thank you for posting this Ed, I think I’ve understood some of it. I do think that your images are wonderful, however you got them. To me this is art, you’ve started with nothing and ended up with an image. If it’s not art, what can it be.
I do have a question though. What is NFT please? I get the impression I’m going to be embarrassed by the answer being simple.
You’ve convinced me to have a look into Ai images, so if you get reports on IG of some random Brit scouring your pages, don’t panic it’ll be me.
Hi Dean, have a read here about NFTs: https://www.35mmc.com/18/05/2021/nfts-can-you-sell-analog-vintage-camera-photos-on-a-blockchain-by-pixels-and-grain/
Thank you Hamish. Tech isn’t one of my strong points🤣😂.
My head hurts too! I tried logging on to ‘Midjourney’ (for some reason my brain keeps seeing this as ‘Mindjourney’), but then I had to use something called Discord, which really made my brain hurt. Despite creating a Discord account and joining the Midjourney Discord, I had absolutely no idea what to do next. It was infathomable. I gave up in the end. At the tender age of 46, I’m clearly not cool enough for any of this stuff anymore.
Alan, I’m a bit older, and I’m claiming that as my excuse at not understanding what is going on 🤕🤣.
Sorry to hurt your head! Thank you for taking time to read my article. NFTs are basically digital proof-of-ownership over a piece of art. Glad I could spark your interest in AI images!
We can talk about AI Art and its legitimacy, but it has nothing to do with photography. Is photorealistic painting also photography? Photography is “writing with light.” I think it’s important to draw a line here or we’ll see our art and craft hopelessly diluted.
Photorealistic painting is definitely not photography. I agree that the line between both being clear would be nice, but the reality is that it is becoming more blurred everyday. I appreciate you taking time to read my article!
How exactly is that line being blurred?
AI advancements are making photorealistic images more realistic and more of these are generated everyday. If someone shares an image that looks identical to a photo, then no viewers except that person know what tools were used to create it
People being confused about whether they’re looking at a photo-realistic illustration or an actual photograph doesn’t actually blur the provenance of the image though.
That remains simple: a photograph is a recording of something using a light sensitive device. An AI created render is an illustration.
Pro 3D rendering artists have been creating photo-realistic images for years, without anybody in the creative industries being confused about whether the renders could or should be called ‘photographs’.
I think the current debate about whether renders created by AI engines are legit ‘photographs’ is mainly playing out amongst people who haven’t worked professionally in image creation.
Seeings 35mmc publish Ai generated images is unfortunate, always enjoy reading the varied content that comes through here but not this….it can be art, but it is not photography.
Totally agree. Very jarring to see, especially with such vapid content.
It’s hardly even about AI, it’s more about the writer and their ego than anything else.
Ok, the line I have when it comes to comments is where you stop talking about the topic or the work and start attacking the person. Can you stop now please, else I’ll just remove the comments.
I don’t see the attack here Hamish? The content of the article is pretty lacking, there’s not much to discuss!
It’s Hamish’s website, he can do as he pleases…..but if you let an article down the pipe that is on such a divisive topic and it gets people bothered, also fair….the big issue to me with Ai is that its not a person making the image, its the Ai being prompted to make something at an persons “prompting”, no photographic medium is actually being used to create an image.
Does a client “prompting” a photographer to make work with specific parameters mean the client who is not touching the camera is the photographer? No that is ridiculous.
The technology is here to stay and I am suspecting it will rapidly cheapen itself to a point its not even a second though to most of us while actual photographers who can create photos continue to do as such.
I just like to keep a tight grip on the comment threads, Jeb. Push back against this sort of thing is fine, in fact, I encourage it. I just like the push back to be well aimed and not in any way personal.
Thanks for your input, Jeb!
I personally find this really interesting – I’m sure it will raise many eyebrows, but I think it’s really interesting to see someone using film photography as I guide for the AI. “Photography”, perhaps not, but I can see the creative draw to using such tools.
Thank you, Hamish!
This whole article reads like a sales pitch, especially the bizarre inclusion of the NFT heading which is disconnected from anything else the author mentions. I have to wonder if it was written by an AI!
There is no serious debate on what is and is not art, that’s in the eye of the beholder.
What does exist is the debate around where AI prompted images “belong”, to which this article contributes nothing. A better piece on that is this one: http://photothunk.blogspot.com/2023/04/we-need-word.html
What also exists is the concern around legality and ownership.
The AI used for the images in this article was trained using stolen materials:
A US copyright office has claimed that AI images are not protected by copyright:
And depending on where you are in the world, work created by an AI is not even “yours” to copyright in the first place
I am not sure why this article has found a place on this website. It is self aggrandising, with the author almost seeming proud that these generated images are mistaken for the photographs into which they put actual hours of hard work.
As with all articles that are published on 35mmc – especially ones of this order – the purpose is the discussion. I don’t think the conversation around AI ends at your points – though they are of course valid and valuable as part of the conversation – any more than it ends at Ed’s standpoint. Until the conversation around where the line between what is and what isn’t photography is drawn, the conversation about something that some people argue at least has roots in photography is welcome here. And that’s not to say I agree or disagree with either side of the conversation, my opinion is irrelevant, I simply find the conversation interesting enough to welcome it here.
Ed hasn’t spoken about where the line of what is and isn’t photography is drawn.
The “Photothunk” article I linked addresses this.
Just because something feels hyper/photo-realistic that doesn’t make it a photograph or part of photography.
Ed used a strawman, pretending that the debate is about whether or not they are art, which is not an honest representation of the discourse. As I said, no one is arguing that it is not art, only recognising that not only is it not photography, but it is not even something someone can realistically use as part of a serious workflow if they want to actually own and use that end result.
At least you are honest about wanting to drive traffic to your site, and of course that is yours to welcome as you please.
I am sure that the valueless, ownerless, un-copyrightable proposition of AI will do great things for film photography, which hosts none of those issues!
“I am sure that the valueless, ownerless, un-copyrightable proposition of AI will do great things for film photography, which hosts none of those issues!”
Yes, now this is an interesting point! Many argue that AI photography will damage or even remove the need for photography as a medium. The idea that it might actually push people toward more traditional (real) mediums is one I also get behind, or at very least hope will be the case. As Ed talks about, throughout history there have been technological advancements that have changed how we take part in creating photography (or perhaps just art), but as of yet, very few have entirely supplanted what came before.
As for traffic, of course all publishers hope to get traffic, this website would be nothing without it, but I can assure you I wouldn’t run this website in the way I do if I was even slightly motivated by numbers of visitors.
“throughout history there have been technological advancements that have changed how we take part in creating photography”
And AI is not one of them, outside of AI autofocus. As this isn’t about that it is a curiosity to see on this otherwise very rewarding site.
Anon because the AI/NFT crowd are toxic and do not take criticism well.
It is though. For eg, there’s lot of tools in photoshop for removing grain, smoothing skin, changing backgrounds etc that use AI now.
I edit my film photos in Lightroom, how much of my photo in terms of a percentage of surface area would you allow me to adjust with AI based tools before, by your measure, would it cease to be a photo?
You saying AI/NFT folks are toxic is in itself a toxic sweeping generalisation.
Incidentally, why hide behind Anon…?
This isn’t about use of AI in editing, it’s about generated content.
If you work with the information in a file or negative you haven’t changed anything from what was always there. If you start to composite, or change elements then you started with a photo but it became a composite. This is well trodden ground, hardly anything new for discussion.
As for my sweeping generalisation, you asked why not use my identity. Whether you agree with that reason or not it is the reason.
I don’t think it is well trodden ground. The use of AI in photo editing is increasing very fast. At some point AI photo editing meets AI image creation. Where one starts and the next begins is definitely going to become blurred over time, and with it the conversation about what can be defined as a “photo”.
Actually, I don’t think anyone here – including Ed – things an AI generated image is a photo. I certainly don’t. But as I say, I think where we will see this sort of technology used over the coming years will definitely blur the lines even more than they are now.
Also, whether you agree with any of this stuff, whether it angers you or pleases you, it’s definitely happening. Which is why I think the conversation is interesting.
As for the anon thing, well, that’s fine I suppose – it just makes for uneven ground
Didn’t mean for it to seem like a sales pitch. Maybe I came across a bit too enthusiastic. I agree with your statement that art is in the eye of the beholder. And thanks for sharing these links, I’ll definitely check them out. You’re right – I am proud of my work, as is any artist. Thanks for taking time to read my article and share your thoughts, Anon!
Good that you are proud of your work. Maybe one day you will share some of it here!
There really is no need to be so snide. You might not agree with Ed’s approach, but why not just have a balanced conversation without being unnecessarily rude?
Ed has a link to his instagram in the article above that shows a lot of his older work too. It looks exactly like the rendered images above, very cool. I’d second the idea of him writing an additional show and tell about his photography work here.
Very interesting reading.
I think one great think about AI generated pictures trend is that people that can actually make original things on tangible media without AI will have more and more value as less and less people will take time, and make the effort to actually craft stuff from nothing with their own head and hands. I’m a bit skeptical about using computer to help us imagine things. We’re totally capable of doing it without Ai.
And I urge people to try doing things by themselves before diving into Ai things, especially the youngest ones 🙂 it is a much more satisfying and rewarding process overall. You can actually get better at it when you practice. Sure you can improve too at formulating better Ai requests but it actually won’t make you a better or more creative artist… just a better Ai technician. While you can actually train to improve your skills and vision at proper photography or painting, or music, etc
I want to emphasize that these words are not a critique about the article, only my opinion on that I needed to confront to other peoples opinions.
Food for thought anyway:)
Thanks Vincent, this is much more the sort of conversation I anticipated when encouraging the writing of this article for publication here.
Great advice for new artists! Thanks Vincent!
As said Ed said in his article, “In fact, I’m using ChatGPT right now to help me better articulate parts of this article.” So in may ways here is AI being used to comment on “AI Photography” to make its own case. Indeed, maybe Ed is, in reality, actually an AI itself? In fact it’s hard to tell isn’t, which is of course the whole point.
As to what is and isn’t photography, well we humans have changed its definition to suite the times and our evolving technology more than once, especially with arrival of Video Stills Imaging, sorry Digital Photography as we are now forced to call it, so it should come as no surprise that our new AI overlords would want to extend it to include their own superior artistic output in this field 😀.
As for myself I will stick to good old real film photography or analogue photography if you must call it that, content to live in a world of my own creation with all its faults and foibles. As for what anyone wants to call photography, well who cares? It’s a personal thing. For me it’s about being out there, camera in hand, a few rolls of film in my pocket, lost to the world, making pictures where you need to get it right first time in camera that’s what I enjoy most and what contributes most to my wellbeing, yes that’s it. That to me is photography. But Ed makes some very interesting points!
There’s an article here where the writer asks ChatGTP about AI photography… It seems a little biased, to say the least – which in itself is quite interesting – but actually, it does make for interesting reading.
Sorry, I also meant to say that I tend to find myself broadly in agreement with your stance. Though those who fear AI and its future would consider us to be foolish and apathetic.
You made a couple of great points as well, Neil! Creating images with AI has actually given me an even greater appreciation for film photography. Thanks for reading and adding valuable insight!
First, let me congratulate you on investigating this new art form Ed. These images are ethereal and cinematic. Futuristic, while at the same time mysteriously retro. Well done. Similar to the divisive nature of electric cars, I would say AI is just a choice. Some artists prefer the challenge of an analog experience with chemical photography (though very few print their images optically in a darkroom anymore). Others gravitate to a more modern green solution with a purely digital workflow. Either can result in compelling images.
As someone who was a commercial photographer during the golden age of film, I can assure you that we embraced the advent of DSLRs. I ditched my Hasselblads in Y2K for a shiny new Nikon D1. Soon however, we realized that we were chained to our computers. Like robots.
Now apparently, one can spend hours keyboarding prompts into the AI to create “our” images. But are they truly ours? Will people respect that? I believe that is the double-edged sword of technology. Historically, artists and craftsmen earned respect by doing difficult things. Things that others could not. That is why there has been a resurgence of film. It’s a recognition of the craft.
Thank you, JK! I appreciate your review of my images and taking time to read my article. I agree, AI is not for everyone. And great thoughts to consider!
Whilst I appreciate the images produced, and can relate to them as art, they fail to provide me with any sort of emotion, other than apathy.
They are so far removed from the pleasure gained from going outside and physically taking a photograph. It removes the anticipation of waiting for your scans to be sent out, or the joy of developing yourself.
It is, in my humble opinion, souless, Al may elequently describe soft rain on your face and the aroma of freshly cut grass, yet it will never equal the physical experience.
This is my feeling as well or rather lack of feeling. I’ve never seen a medium before AI which has such hollowness and becomes all the more empty when you see the enthusiasm others are using to push it out into the world. There’s just nothing there.
Valid opinion! I agree, from my experience, that film photography is a more enjoyable and rewarding process.
AI image generation isn’t photography.
You cannot compare digital photography to AI generated “art”.
I understand why the article is here and it’s interesting but it cannot ever be photography.
There’s no ‘debate’ to be had about it. It’s quite simple – photography
The art or process of producing images of objects on photosensitive surfaces.
The art, practice, or occupation of taking and printing photographs.
A body of photographs.
as for AI and Chat bots or whatever – I’ve never used them and never will.
Well said, Ibraar! Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.
Love the Coastal Nights image.
I’m not going to tell people how to create images. Do what makes you happy. Stop with the gatekeeping.
Thank you, Huss!
As a retouching artist who spent 30 years with film then in 2006 went to the computer I have my own viewpoint of it all. As PS became mainstream my client base deserted me because they could do it themselves. At least that was their opinion. I went from being one of three top retouchers in DFW, Texas to just another fish in the vast ocean of retouchers. As PS went away from ownership to cloud the ocean grew even more expansive. I eventually re-established myself as a top tier digital darkroom specialist but the lustre of past days has never returned. You can talk to people and tell them you are a PS specialist and they will say something like, Oh, my 8 year old son uses PS. The true specialist gets thrown in with 8 year olds.
This is what awaits photographers as AI entrenches itself in society. Trying to make a solid living as a photographer and /or retoucher has continually become more and more difficult. Even the developers at Adobe have kicked the old school long term PS user to the curb by focusing on the newbie to make it easier for them. Let the longterm user be damned and figure out how to adapt his/her style to the software. I do photo restoration work as part of my business and I can certainly see uses for AI but it will also become more difficult to make a little money because the “good enough” crowd will become the dominant force.
Thankfully I work with a photographer who sees a personal touch from a living, breathing human as more important than expediency. The fox has been in the henhouse for awhile now and my personal desire to continue shooting film looks as if I’ve buried my head in the sand to the present reality. Let AI people find their own forums to post their computer art but don’t take away my enjoyment of this film site. AI is not photography, period. If you don’t need a camera,glass plate,film etc. then you don’t need me.
Interesting story! I agree, these are two different mediums, as the title suggests. Thanks for reading my article, Bill!
You could say the same about digital photography Bill. When that became big, everyone bought a Nikon or Canon DSLR system and suddenly became a professional photographer. The market is flooded w wedding and portrait photographers, becoming a race to the bottom undercharging each other in order to snag a job.
Yes Huss you are so right. The portrait photographer I produce work for decided decades ago that what we would do is create work of impeccable quality and cater to the clients who appreciate the level of detail we bring to each image. Detail as in the level of precision in the images, edit and print quality. All work is done in-house by the two of us. We have collaborated together since 1990 and have seen so much change in the industry and so many photographers move to other careers. I think it is naive thinking to believe that no one will lose their job or work because of AI. The race to the bottom, as you called it, is always there when you don’t take the time and effort to produce a product that separates you from the masses and stands the test of time.
Both of us are old school in our thinking when it comes to what we would describe as a photographer but we are cutting edge when it comes to implementing new shooting styles, equipment and software improvements. The photographer shoots incredible work but we have always put the majority of our efforts into the production of the final print/s. This mindset requires a longterm vision that is so lacking in todays photography circles. Our longterm vision is at the heart of the business. I am now retouching bridal portraits of the children of brides photographed more than 25 years ago. You must have a longterm strategy otherwise you will be overcome by the constant changes in equipment and software of which AI is now moving to the forefront. The work you produce must be driven by your own vision not that of software or camera manufacturers whose ultimate goal is revenue for stockholders. This is a very short answer in this complex situation for photographers and retouch artists alike.
Hi Ed, thanks for the interesting article! I love the images that you have created here. When it comes to AI and photography, of course there are many layers to the discussion. I agree with the line of thought that it is not photography, rather digitally created art, which folks have been doing for years now without raising eyes. Painting with acrylics and oils formed into painting with an Apple Pencil for certain artists that found that something they enjoyed doing.
I can see an issue where people pass off their AI art as photography, meaning, what you are seeing is an accurate representation of what happened in real life. However, then you can get into talking about how a lot of photography is more artful in the sense that it departs the viewer from real life and where is the line? Someone mentioned airbrushing and liquifying for example. Is that photography or now digitally altered photography or digital art? Loads of fashion brands and portrait photographers have been smoothing skin and removing wrinkles and pimples for a long time, but this is still considered photography, though it borders close to being as we might say “fake”.
AI is leading us into an interesting discussion of what is photography, but also does it matter? For some genres it might, like say media and journalism where the image is communicating to viewers what is happening in real life. Or weddings and portraits where people want photos of how they looked on the day. For other genres, maybe not so much.
Gosh, I didn’t mean to write so much, but it is something that intrigues me the way people think about it!
On the point of using other photographers and artists work, I suppose you could argue that humans have been doing this since we first started creating art in the form that we know of it nowadays. We have always been borrowing from each other. The famous phrase, “steal like an artist” rings true here. Copy and paste is different, but copy and transform with your own style is what a lot of artists have done. That’s how things progress, we take what is there and add our own spin on it, leading others to do the same and the cycle continues.
Jobs lost for photographers? I’m not sure. Maybe certain genres and depends on how good the AI is. But a lot of work that photographers provide to clients is based on those images being as true to the product or person as possible, and humans like real things. It’s why so many people, especially young people, have exploded on film photography recently. Or imagine your favourite sports moment, someone scoring a goal was faked with AI. I’m not sure football fans would want to see that. They want the real thing. Humans like to know that something is real and while some clients might use AI to save costs, others will not and there will still be work for photographers.
I’ll stop there, but I could go on haha Thanks for the thought-provoking article!
Thank you, Molly! Several great points made here. I agree, the increasing use of digital tools is making it harder to categorize art into traditional genres. I think you’re right in that the transparency of the medium is ultimately situational / dependent on the intention or setting. I believe there will always be a place for photography just as there is currently for film photography. Happy I could provide some food-for-thought, and thanks for your great feedback!
Also, just to add, these are some of the best images I’ve seen generated from an AI standpoint. I find them interesting and beautiful. The response to AI might also be influenced by the quality of work that is produced. Say for example, I’ve seen images where people are missing fingers and toes or there are some strange artifacts. To me, this is less pleasing. However, someone could also paint this as well and that would be art. I still think it wouldn’t be as enjoyable to view for myself as your images here are. So well done on these 🙂
Thank you so much!
I have to say, I am generally not interested in AI art, definitely not into NFTs, and find myself rejecting most of the cutting-edge tech these days (I mean, why is blockchain being used mostly to find wealth without doing any work for it, instead of primarily being used to correct the web’s problem of infinite copy-ability by establishing provenance for IP and other sensitive data?), BUT, I am a huge fan of cyberpunk and associated futuristic genres. I’m quite split in my reactions to the modern world of tech.
That said, I really like your AI images, I think specifically because they fit so well within a cyberpunk aesthetic — not strictly “punk” except that, to me, the fact that they were generated by AI establishes the punk aspect of it, in that it is dehumanizing. I.e. the people in the ‘photos’ aren’t even people.
So, I quite like your work, even if I don’t share your enthusiasm for where tech is going. I guess it’s largely trending in the direction of the cyberpunk dystopia I enjoy so much as a setting or aesthetic… I just have moral objections to it as a reality.
We will see what comes of all this!
Thanks Andrew! I definitely do not want to live in a dystopia, but cyberpunk has always captured my imagination more than any other aesthetic. As for reality, I like to think of the future as being more solarpunk than cyberpunk. Thanks for reading my article and checking out my work!
I feel the interesting — to me, at least — application of AI is as an artist’s assistant, especially if you can configure and teach it to work better with you.
No reason why AI generated images can’t be art – many famous artists through history used assistants to create revered work they claimed as their own, and this is no different. However, they’re not photography, since the process doesn’t use the light from an actual subject. But this is a technical difference, in contrast to the philosophical one of “art vs not-art”. Keep plugging away at it though, the results are interesting.
I’m quite surprised at how few AI discussion raise the topic of training data necessary for the generative models to be viable. To create anything, be it text, image data, or music; the machine must first be fed enough existing content (with associated text tags) to figure out what the text prompt WE feed it should it associate to.
To be blunt, a generated image is someone else’s images that were put through a mulcher, and regurgitated on command; often without the original creator’s knowledge nor consent. If the resulting image is built up from the work of thousands of others, despite us being unable to trace them back, is it not still plagiarism?
[insert standard disclaimer on English not being my first language]
Isn’t that what humans do too though. Large amounts of images put into the human brain mulcher, then regurgitated as something our our when we create.
Perhaps the answer is that the human brain has other influences beyond visual input. But you only have to do a google search for “wet leaf on a rock” or “black and white waterfall” to see how readily influenced by each other we are, and indeed how little other human traits potentially play on the creative process.
In short, we copy each other all the time. All we have done here is ask a computer to automate that process for us.
In copyright law there’s a real distinction though between being influenced by a look/style and then going out to take a similar photo, and cutting up a bunch of other people’s photos and pasting them together to create a collage – which arguably is what the AI rendering engines do.
Personally I think your point is valid, but profesionally I’ve always had to be mindful of the exact legal line since my clients really do need work that’s 100% secure as far as IP/copyright goes.
For that reason I only use AI for generating inspiration/reference at the moment, not that different to the usual mood board. For executing the ‘real’ work I’ll be sure to create it myself from scratch.
Adobe’s Firefly which supposedly was trained only on Adobe owned stock imagery might be the first rendering engine I’d consider safer to use (i.e. safer, not guaranteed 100% safe until there’s been some settled challenges given that it’s still murky whether Adobe Stock constributors truly signed away their work to be sampled for remixing and selling as somebody else’s, no matter how dilute the sample is).