Photo of headless flamingo that won an AI award turns out to be real


The photograph of a headless flamingo appeared like one thing solely synthetic intelligence might dream up. After all, the virtually completely spherical, pink puffball atop two toothpick-like legs carried the hallmarks of an AI-generated picture: offbeat vibes, odd proportions and lacking physique elements.

In truth, the image — in equal measure absurd and lifelike — was so mind-bending that it was honored final week within the AI class of the 1839 Awards’ Color Photography Contest. But “F L A M I N G O N E,” because it was titled, wasn’t conjured by a textual content immediate entered into an image-generating device. Rather, the photograph contains a very a lot real — and by no means beheaded — flamingo that photographer Miles Astray captured on the seashores of Aruba two years in the past.

Astray’s entry — which had won each third place within the class and the People’s Vote award — was disqualified after the photographer revealed the reality. However, Astray informed The Washington Post, “F L A M I N G O N E” completed its mission nonetheless: sending a poignant message to a world grappling with ever-advancing, highly effective know-how and the profusion of pretend pictures it brings.

“My goal was to show that nature is just so fantastic and creative, and I don’t think any machine can beat that,” Astray informed The Post. “But, on the other hand, AI imagery has advanced to a point where it’s indistinguishable from real photography. So where does that leave us? What are the implications and the pitfalls of that? I think that is a very important conversation that we need to be having right now.”

When it comes to AI-generated pictures, a lot consideration has fallen on its weird outcomes: the Pope clad in a Balenciaga-style puffer jacket, a melted-face Elon Musk tanning on Mars, a flood of folks with too many tooth or too many fingers. Yet the know-how has additionally enabled the proliferation of deepfakes — pictures that might be used for extra nefarious targets, similar to upending elections or spreading disinformation. In inventive circles, it’s led to debates about job safety and honest compensation. It’s all resulted in worldwide calls to regulate the know-how.


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As Astray sees it: “Technology itself is not inherently good or bad. It’s how we apply it, right? So I think we really need to get ahead of that now; otherwise, it’s going to be very difficult to catch up with it.”

That’s partly what prompted Astray to interact in some trickery, which was impressed by comparable stunts in recent times. But these different circumstances have concerned AI-generated pictures successful pictures prizes — “that’s why I approached this from the other side.”

For about two years, the 38-year-old globe-trotting photographer had been mulling over the “surreal photo of an already surreal-looking type of bird” he had shot on a pristine seaside off the coast of Aruba. That sunny day, Astray had left round 5 a.m. on the primary boat certain to a tiny island identified for its flock of flamingos, hoping to beat the crowds. When he bought there, he noticed a vivid pink fowl “doing its morning routine” and cleansing its feathers, he mentioned. The “very lucky shot” captured the flamingo mid stomach scratch.

Over the previous couple of years, he thought the funny-looking fowl might be the right medium for his AI protest, “but there weren’t a lot of competitions with the category.” Opportunity got here knocking late final 12 months when the Creative Resource Collective requested whether or not he’d like to enter the 1839 Awards’ Color Photography Contest, which is judged by an array of trade specialists from the Centre Pompidou, the New York Times and Getty Images, amongst others.

“I felt bad about deceiving them,” mentioned Astray, who added that he disclosed to Creative Resource Collective that the picture was not AI-generated when the group emailed him to let him know he had won. “And it goes without saying that they made the right decision in disqualifying me out of fairness to the other participants in that category that submitted real AI imagery.”

In a press release to The Post, Lily Fierman, director of Creative Resource Collective, mentioned that whereas the group totally appreciates the “powerful message Miles relayed with his submission,” it moved to disqualify him as a result of Astray’s picture didn’t meet the class’s necessities.

The stand-alone AI class, the primary within the contest’s historical past, Fierman mentioned, “was intended to be a space for artists working in this new medium. For example, we didn’t want folks who travel to the ends of the Earth to capture incredible animals or landscapes to compete with AI.”

Nevertheless, she added, “we hope this will raise awareness (and send a message of hope) to other photographers who are worried about AI.” Now, Fierman added, Creative Resource Collective is working with Astray to publish a weblog submit on the subject. “As an artist, his voice will make a difference in this conversation,” she mentioned.

Astray, whose work focuses on “capturing the world as-is,” mentioned he wasn’t anticipating that optimistic response — nor the a whole lot of “hilarious, thoughtful and heartfelt comments” he has obtained throughout social media.

“All those are human qualities that AI can never replicate or relate to,” he mentioned. “I think that’s beautiful and it’s a part of that message that I initially wanted to send. Actually, all of that combined is the message.”

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