Boris Eldagsen refused award at top photography prize after revealing winner image was made by AI

A German photographer has turned down a prestigious prize after revealing that his winning photograph was created using artificial intelligence.

Boris Eldagsen was named the winner in the creative open category at the Sony World Photography Awards, with his black and white photograph Pseudomnesia / The Electrician. The image shows a young woman standing in front of the camera while an older woman stands behind her.

However, one week after he won the prize, Eldagsen shared a statement on his website announcing that he “would not accept the awards”.

“I applied as a cheeky monkey to find out if the competition was prepared for AI images to enter. They are not,” he wrote.

“We, the photo world, need an open discussion. A discussion about what we want to consider photography and what not. Is the umbrella of photography large enough to invite AI images to enter – or would this be a mistake?”

Eldagsen, who specializes in photo and visual art, said that he “hoped to speed up this debate” by refusing the award.

He suggested that “if you don’t know what to do with the prize, please donate it to the fotofestival in Odesa, Ukraine”.

A spokesperson for the World Photography Organization said that Eldagsen told them he had “co-created” the image using AI before he was announced as the winner.

“As per the rules of the competition, the photographers provide the warranties of their entry,” they told The Guardians.

“The creative category of the open competition welcomes various experimental approaches to image making from cyanotypes and rayographs to cutting-edge digital practices. As such, following our correspondence with Boris and the warranties he provided, we felt that his entry met the criteria for this category, and we were supportive of his participation.”

The WPO added that they had additionally “welcomed Boris’s wish for dialogue”, but had suspended working with him after he declined the award.

“Given his actions and subsequent statements noting his deliberate attempts at misleading us, and therefore invalidating the warranties he provided, we no longer feel we are able to engage in a meaningful and constructive dialogue with him,” they said.

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