"Pseudomnesia: The Electrician" Image Credit: Boris Eldagsen

Paris: A German artist has sparked an angry row after winning a prestigious photography prize with an entry that was generated by artificial intelligence.

Boris Eldagsen said he had been open from the start about his work but would not accept the gong from the Sony World Photography Awards because such competitions were not yet equipped to handle AI entries.

The awards body said it had been aware of the nature of the image but accused the artist of "deliberately misleading" behaviour, provoking an angry reply from Eldagsen on Tuesday.

read more

Many photographers and artists fear their livelihoods are under threat from AI tools that allow anyone to create striking images with just a quick text prompt.

The rapid rise of AI image generators has already sparked legal cases, as the tools are "trained" on a vast number of images - many of which could be copyright protected.

Last year, an AI-generated artwork won a prize at the Colorado State Fair, prompting soul-searching in the art world.

Sony World Photography Awards announced Eldagsen's entry - a sepia-toned image of two women entitled "Pseudomnesia: The Electrician" - as the winner of its creative category in mid-March.

Eldagsen gave interviews at the time explaining how he had made the work and saying he wanted to spark a debate over AI.

However, he wrote last week that "AI images and photography should not compete with each other in an award like this" and rejected the prize.

"I applied as a cheeky monkey, to find out if the competitions are prepared for AI images to enter. They are not," he wrote.

The awards body said in its response that it had been looking forward to engaging the artist in a discussion about AI but had withdrawn the work "in keeping with his wishes".

Its statement added: "Given his actions and subsequent statement 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."

Eldagsen hit back on Tuesday, saying it was "nonsense" to suggest the awards body had been willing to engage.