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Photography and AI: A Blossoming Synergy

But in his statement released to the SWPA and the Press, Boris said that he declined to accept the prestigious Award, because his awarded creation
Photography and AI
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In the realm of human expression, few mediums have captured the ethereal tapestry of life as beautifully as photography. We have experienced the lens, akin to an artist’s brush, paints vivid strokes of reality onto the canvas of perception. The long history of photography taught us to believe, it never lies. But our faith and belief received a hot blow on 1st of April 2023.   

Sony World Photography Awards Contest or SWPA is one of the most premium and prestigious global photo contests, instituted since 2006. Every year thousands of enthusiastic photographers and photo artists participate in this contest to try their luck. The awards include fabulous cash prize, an all-expenses paid trip to the award ceremony, the memento, accolades etc. Moreover, an SWPA winner’s name is included in the Photography Hall of Fame. But on 1st April this year, SWPA winner Boris Eldagsen declined to accept the Award. The Photographic Community was hard to believe this wildfire news, and was about to take it as an April Fool’s joke. But in his statement released to the SWPA and the Press, Boris said that he declined to accept the prestigious Award, because his awarded creation ‘Pseudomnesia: The Electrician’ was not a photograph but an Artificial Intelligence creation. And for that reason, he said, “My entry should not compete with the Photographic entries”. Reportedly, Boris also raised a question mark on the capability of the Jury, saying that he wanted to test their competence and sadly they failed. Finally, the SWPA Authority removed his name from the list of awardees.    

Now what exactly is an AI Image? Artificial Intelligence generated Art (AI ART) has been in the news for about the last four decades. Around 1973 Harold Cohen developed a system which used a symbolic AI approach to create Black and White Art drawings. While AI Art was under continuous development it gathered steam in 2014. In 2015, as an experimental approach to AI Art, Google released ‘Deep Dream’. The AI Art shot to fame when in 2018, an AI generated portrait of Edmond de Belamy created by ‘Obvious’ a Paris based group of Artists was sold at Christie’s auction house in New York for a whooping USD 432,500. Today, lots of AI Generative Tools, both free or paid, are easily available in the Image  market. Photographers and graphic designers are using this copyright free content in abundance.  

However, though Boris Eldagsen really tried to be honest in this era of relentless technological advancement, a new and astounding question of creativity has emerged to all the photographers and photo artists, to be true to the whole photography community and business. Will we need a camera anymore? As AI sprouts from the fertile grounds of new and new software every day, it intertwines its roots with the very essence of photography, enriching the art form in ways that once seemed otherworldly. Is It raising a question about the symbiotic relationship between a camera and a computer? Between photography and prompt generation? Let us struggle a little with our perceptions.     

We believed photography, in its essence, is the art of capturing moments that fleetingly pass, harnessing light and shadows to crystallize emotions, places, and stories. In this pursuit, AI    emerges as an enigmatic alchemist, turning just some computer prompts into a picture.  It has shown its tremendous power to turn an ordinary image into an extraordinary symphony of visual delight. Through its remarkable capacity for image enhancement, AI introduced new life into photographs, revealing hidden textures that were once concealed in the veil of obscurity.

An AI generated image

AI’s ability to decipher intricate patterns of colour, light, and contrast enables it to unearth details that evade even the most discerning human eye. With its deft touch, now AI can restore faded photographs, transforming sepia-toned memories into vibrant tableaus that evoke the vitality of the past. As if endowed with magical vision, AI can amplify the brilliance of sunsets, deepen the richness of sea, and amplify the cadence of chiaroscuro, all while maintaining a delicate balance between authenticity and artistic interpretation.

Beyond enhancement, AI has flourished into an indispensable collaborator in the composition of captivating visual narratives. Guided by algorithms attuned to the harmony of composition, AI algorithms stand shoulder-to-shoulder with photographers, enabling them to weave tales with visual threads that resonate deeply with the human psyche.

AI algorithms, infused with an understanding of classical aesthetics and visual balance, offer suggestions that elevate the photographer’s creative competence. Like a brilliant conductor leading an orchestra, AI assists in framing subjects with impeccable symmetry, aligning horizons, and establishing the golden ratio to evoke a sense of innate harmony. In this mutual artistic endeavour, now photographs can push the boundaries of their own creativity. 

As if endowed with magical vision, AI can amplify the brilliance of sunsets, deepen the richness of sea, and amplify the cadence of chiaroscuro, all while maintaining a delicate balance between authenticity and artistic interpretation.

The marriage of photography and AI is not merely confined to the realm of enhancement, it extends into the realm of imagination, birthing surreal vistas that stretch the boundaries of reality. AI’s capacity to generate images based on learned patterns ushers in a new era of creative exploration, where the bounds of possibility dissolve, and new vistas of unrestrained artistic expression come to life. It is actually Unleashing our Imagination from reality to surreality.     

Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), a marvel of AI architecture, have enabled photographers to probe into uncharted territories of creativity. These networks, comprising a generator and a discriminator, engage in a duet that births images mirroring reality but streaked with an otherworldly allure. Through this captivating relationship, photographers are now conjuring dreamscapes that traverse the spectrum from the surreal to the sublimely poetic, expanding the very definition of photography itself. 

Yet, as AI unfurls its wings and lifts the photographer’s imagination to soaring heights, ethical considerations cast their shadow upon this intricate dance. The question of authorship and the sanctity of creative autonomy arise, as the lines blur between human ingenuity and AI-assisted creation. Can an image, meticulously refined by AI algorithms, truly be the exclusive creation of a human artist? Does the symbiosis between man and machine dilute the authenticity of the artistic process?

AI generated portrait of a man who doesn't exist.

In this conundrum, the role of the artist remains pivotal. Just as a conductor shapes an orchestra’s performance, the photographer guides AI’s contributions, lending the final composition a unique signature that transcends algorithmic origins. The ethical landscape, therefore, rests not on the shoulders of AI, but on the consciousness of the artist, who employs AI as a tool to amplify their creative voice, rather than as an oracle that dictates artistic destiny.

Photography, the art of capturing ephemeral moments, finds itself in a mesmerizing ‘pas de deux’ with artificial intelligence. AI’s enchanting capabilities, from image enhancement to generative artistry, interweave with the photographer’s vision, illuminating new avenues of creativity and redefining the boundaries of artistic expression. As technology’s march continues unabated, this union shall not erode the sanctity of creative autonomy. Instead, it should indicate artists to embrace AI as a collaborator, a companion on the journey of unravelling the mysteries of perception. 

In this age of synthesis, where human ingenuity interlaces with digital innovation, the world witnesses a magnificent symphony of pixels and algorithms. The canvas of photography, once the domain of solitary visionaries, now hosts a grand tapestry woven by the hands of both human and artificial artists. As the petals of time unfold, the relationship between photography and artificial intelligence shall continue to bloom, ever more vibrant, ever more breath-taking, a testament to the harmonious coexistence of human creativity and technological marvels. And for sure we are not going to garbage out our camera and lenses so soon, because AI will be the future alchemy of enhancement of our images which can be conceived only by a human brain. 

Images courtesy: Pixabay & Pixabay

Amit Sarkar is known nationally and internationally for his wildlife photography. He has received many awards distinctions and accolades in the field of photography from more than 30 countries. International Federation of Photographic Art (FIAP) the parent body of all photographic associations has awarded him with Distinction ‘Excellence FIAP’ in 2023. He is also a well-known poet and writer in Bengali language.

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