Photographer wins AI contest with real picture

By Minh Nga   June 15, 2024 | 03:46 pm PT
Photographer wins AI contest with real picture
The F L A M I N G O N E photo by Miles Astray. Photo courtesy of Miles Astray
A Germany photographer submitted an actual photograph to an AI-generated picture contest to prove that nature can beat the machine.

Mile Astray, 38, initially won the contest, but when judges learned his photo was not digitally created, he was disqualified.

Astray won first place in the AI category of the People's Vote Award at the 1839 Photography Awards with a photo depicting a flamingo with its head seemingly bent into its body.

The winners were chosen by representatives from the New York Times, Christie’s auction house, Phaidon Publishing, and other institutions.

However, Astray later revealed with the organizers that he had taken the photo at a beach in Aruba, "where flamingos roam freely," in an early morning, he wrote on his official website.

In a statement, the competition's organizers said Astray had a "powerful message" but the photo's entry was nonetheless unfair, according to the Guardian.

Astray said the organizer's decision "is a completely justified and right decision that I expected and support fully."

But he said he entered the photo into the AI category "to prove that human-made content has not lost its relevance, that Mother Nature and her human interpreters can still beat the machine, and that creativity and emotion are more than just a string of digits."

Astray said after noticing that AI-generated images were surpassing real photos in competitions, he thought about flipping the script by entering a real photo into an AI competition.

"My work F L A M I N G O N E was the perfect candidate because it's a surreal and almost unimaginable shot, and yet completely natural. It is the first real photo to win an AI award."

He admitted to having ethical concerns about misleading the jury, and took that seriously, but he hoped that industry professionals and the audience would see that this critique of AI and its ethical dilemmas was more significant than the deceit involved.

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