Vogue To Host Photo Expo Including AI Images, Infuriating Photographers
AI-rendered imagery is making all kinds of waves in the worlds of digital content and professional photography as a profession, among other places.
Now, it’s also gaining more legitimacy. One of the upcoming cases of this will be the Vogue PhotoVogue festival, which for this year (and probably in future years) will exhibit AI images right alongside real photos as part of its presentation.
This of course has garnered plenty of criticism, but also quite a few defenders.
The festival isn’t some minor photography event either. It will be held in Milan, Italy and Vogue Magazine itself has been a major player and career-maker across decades of fashion photography developments.
The event will be titled “What makes us human? Image in the age of AI”. The exhibits to be presented during the art event will include one in particular called “Uncanny Atlas”, which will visually investigate what it is that makes AI change the idea of photography.
AI image makers during the event will include several people who are trying to make a name for themselves in this new visual world.
Among them is Michael Christopher Brown, a photojournalist who has worked for the New York Times and NatGeo and who controversially and unapologetically created a “post-photography” series of images imitating difficult-to-document political troubles in Havana, Cuba that couldn’t be photographed in real life.
Another showcased AI project for the Vogue expo will belong to Prateek Arora, who asks AIs to render images showcasing “indofuturistic” narratives that combine ordinary people from Indian society with surreal figures and elements, often including sci-fi characters.
Make of these particular projects whatever you like, because it and more like it are going to appear ever more frequently in major visual art events such as the upcoming Vogue exhibit.
As you can probably imagine, many real photographers are downright unhappy about Vogue’s decision.
The head of PhotoVogue, Alessio Glaviano has been using Instagram to announce the artists and “artists” that will be presented and the comments below these posts have left few doubts about broad photographer sentiment.
While some of the comments are more philosophically critical, others take a much harder stance.
For example, one Instagram user exclaims, “The world of AI and human creativity” Are you seriously stupid, or do you think we are? AI IS THEFT. You are supporting straight thievery and opportunists. GFYS.”
Given the sheer volume of uncredited real photography that has been used to train today’s AIs such as DALL-E and Midjourney into their photo-rendering capabilities, the above widely-shared sentiment is far from uncommon.
Another comment by a photographer adds, “In this case, AI is nothing more than cheap derivative plagiarism, where the ‘theft’ process is so complex that the source images involved in the digital soup mix can’t ever be traced.”
Then there’s a comment by a model that mentions, “There are many incredible photographers and models. Seeing Vogue endorse AI which still uses thousands of stolen generated images from actual artists and creatives. Just so so disappointing to see.”
The essential agreement that AI is a form of plagiarism or theft is unambiguous.
Glaviano, who probably wants to generate controversy (and thus more media attention) on PhotoVogue’s part for the event, responded to criticism by stating, “How can one have a definitive stance on something as vast and novel as AI-generated content?”
She also elaborated,
“I’ve dedicated my life to photography and the talented individuals who bring it to life, so please never question my reverence for the craft. Yet, it would be naive to dismiss the transformative power and potential challenges AI offers. If we view photography as a canvas, where pixels replace paint, can we then use AI to manifest our most profound thoughts? Can we so swiftly denounce AI-generated images in art? Is art not about conveying our ideas, regardless of the medium?”
Her statements haven’t done much to please a broad swath of photographers, possibly even the vast majority of them.
One in particular succinctly framed his dismissal, “AI is digital, which comes from data and analytics — photography is made from light and reality,”
Photographer Sam Seddon added “AI is not created by you, it is commissioned by you to the program. You tell it what you want and then it scans its data it has processed illegally from other artists to fit those asks,”
Except being mistaken about its legality (which is still being debated in the courts), Seddon is essentially right about the process.
For PhotoVogue, the heated controversy may be useful right now in generating buzz for the event. As for how it affects their future standing with numerous photographers may be a different story.
Boycotts don’t often work in the modern digital age of always being able to find someone who’s willing to consume or create something for your organization, but sometimes momentum can give them unexpected and painful success for their targets.
“What makes us human? Image in the age of AI” will go live in Milan, Italy from November 16 to 19 of this year.
A glance at some of the works to be shown for the AI component of the exhibit shows a distinctly generic, even kitsch flavor to them.
If this is the best that AI can offer even for a major photo exhibition (and even the best of it is similar to what most of us have seen all over the internet by now), then photographers shouldn’t worry too much quite yet.