A few days ago, we brought you news about the latest edition of the world-famous World Press Photo Contest, already on its 69th anniversary, one that aims to recognize and celebrate the best photojournalism and documentary photography. At the moment of publication, though, we lacked information on what precise measures and rules would be set to safeguard the awards —and the profession’s credibility— from the justly maligned and frankly misnamed “AI art.”
After all, genuine and honest photojournalism is already being used to spread misinformation; can you imagine the blow the profession would suffer if this happened at the World Press Photo Awards?
Luckily, the measures already put in place against manipulation were enough to set most minds at ease; as stated in rule 18, participants entering the final stages of the contest will be required to submit the files as recorded by the camera.
This made us wonder, though; we know these plagiarizing engines couldn’t make up raw files out of thin air, so what extra rules did they have left to announce? What legalese did they need? Let’s go over them.
Table of Contents
Through the Lens
Singles, Stories, and Long-Term Projects.
As stated in rule 19, all photographs in these categories must be made by a lens-based camera. Synthetic or artificially generated images will be disqualified immediately.
Enlarging tools such as Adobe Superresolution or Topaz Photo AI are not allowed and will breach the contest rules on sight.
AI-powered enhancement tools like Denoise have a place in the contest, however; as long as these don’t alter the image significantly, they’re permitted up to a certain extent, yet to be determined by the organization and the jury.
Remember, too, that if you make it past the initial stages of the contest, you will be required to submit the original RAW files for a detailed forensic check.
Knowing all of this, it seems to me that it’s better to be safe than sorry and not use these tools at all.
The Open Format
Here’s something I did not expect; in this category, some AI-powered shenanigans are allowed, as long as the core of the work relies on lens-based photography.
We encourage entries that feature innovative techniques, non-traditional modes of presentation, and new approaches to storytelling. In this context, artificially generated images and generative fill will be permitted as long as lens-based photography remains the core and original source of the project.
I may be old and set in my ways, but I don’t see how this would improve any project based on visual journalism; if you can think of any way it could happen, I’d welcome any comments or suggestions.
Remember, though, that the rules for this category aren’t exactly set in stone; the entrants will be asked to specify to what extent the AI has been used — and only the organization can determine if the work meets their criteria.
Zooming out, a Summary
We’ve been pretty clear on this already, but here’s a reminder. AI visuals shouldn’t have a place in photography awards — or any art awards, for this matter. For several extra reasons —credibility, honesty, safety, etcetera— it should have even less of a place in a contest designed and created to award photojournalists.
We’re in an era where photojournalism is at its most important; it has the power to change minds and push new laws into action, to make us believe and behave differently.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that such a prestigious contest as The World Press Photo Awards is hellbent on lens-based photography; after all, there’s no other kind of photography.
Except for the pinholers, of course. You, I salute.