The winner of a major photography award has turned down the prize after admitting the image he submitted was created by artificial intelligence.

German artist Boris Eldagsen’s entry, entitled Pseudomnesia: The Electrician, was awarded a Sony World Photography Award last week in the creative open category.

In a statement on his website, the artist said he applied to the competition as a “cheeky monkey, to find out, if the competition is prepared for AI images to enter”.

“They are not,” he concluded.

He also asked readers: “How many of you know or suspect that it was generated by AI? Something about this doesn’t feel right, does it?

“AI images and photography should not compete with each other in an award like this. They are different entities. AI is not photography.

“Therefore I will not accept the award.”

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Eldagsen said he made the organizers aware of how his image was created when they told him he won, claiming they repeated telling him he could keep the award.

He has published a detailed account of the conversations he had with award organizers Creo, where he appears to repeatedly push them on why they initially failed to reveal his image had been made using AI.

Eldagsen also pointed out that the phrase “pseudomnesia” means “fake memories” in Latin.

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AI has developed rapidly in recent months, with the introduction of the likes of ChatGPT, a language model that can build code or write stories at the click of a button, and software that can drive cars, write university essays or generate images.

A spokesperson for the World Photography Organization said Eldagsen did make the admission about how his image was made before he was announced as the winner of the contest, adding he emphasized the picture in question “relies on his ‘wealth of photographic knowledge'” and that they were satisfied he had met the entry criteria.

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However, they also said relations have now soured between the two, adding: “Additionally, we were looking forward to engaging in a more in-depth discussion on this topic and welcomed Boris’ wish for dialogue by preparing questions for a dedicated Q&A with him for our website.

“As he has now decided to decline his award we have suspended our activities with him and in keeping with his wishes have removed him from the competition.

“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.

“We recognize the importance of this subject and its impact on image-making today. We look forward to further exploring this topic via our various channels and programs and welcome conversations around it.”

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