Every family has its demons. Image generated by AI ©Prateek Arora

In the ever-evolving world of photography, the decision by PhotoVogue to showcase AI-generated imagery

alongside traditional photography in its upcoming festival is stirring debate. Curated around the theme of “Image in the Age of AI. What Makes Us Human,” the program has photographers (or should I say “image-makers”) divided. I’m old enough to remember the fierce “film vs. digital” debate, and while I think AI is more of a threat to some photographers’ livelihoods than digital cameras ever were, I can’t help but be reminded of that time. 

The festival, set to take place from November 16-19, 2023 in Milan, is a testament to the rapidly changing landscape of visual arts. Alessia Glaviano, Head of Global PhotoVogue and Director of PhotoVogue Festival asks us to consider the following: “How can one have a definitive stance on something as vast and novel as AI-generated content? This very uncertainty is why we’ve chosen to focus our festival on this theme. I believe that diving deep into every facet of this conversation is essential, and I hope our festival serves as a platform for enriching dialogue that advances our understanding.”  

I recommend checking out this post on Glaviano’s Instagram if you want to join the conversation, but here is a quick summary of the concerns traditional photographers have with the festival (and with AI’s impact on photography in general).

©Isolde Woudstra

Authenticity and Originality

One of the primary concerns surrounding the inclusion of AI-generated content is the question of authenticity. Traditional photography is rooted in capturing moments, emotions, and stories through the lens. AI-generated imagery, on the other hand, is created through algorithms and data training.

Ethical Implications

The ethical concerns around AI-generated content are vast. From concerns about copyright to deepfakes, there’s a lot to consider. How do we ensure that AI-generated content is used responsibly and ethically, especially when showcased alongside traditional photography?

The Challenge of Curation

At this early stage, it seems that the festival has successfully distinguished AI-generated images from traditional photography in its exhibitions. However, the task of curating such a wide range of content comes with its own set of challenges. Most importantly, in my opinion, how do you ensure that the line between AI and traditional photography remains clear to the audience?

Audience Reception

While some may appreciate the innovative approach of merging AI and traditional photography in the same festival, others might find it disconcerting (and perhaps that’s part of the point). However, the challenge lies in ensuring that the festival remains a space for open dialogue and understanding rather than becoming a battleground for traditional purists vs. enthusiastic early adopters.

“Jessica and a Dollhouse,” 2021 ©Kate Biel

The Future of Photography

The inclusion of AI-generated imagery in such a prestigious festival raises overall questions about the future of photography. Presenting AI image-makers obviously takes up space that traditional photographers would have otherwise filled. Will AI eventually replace traditional photographers? Or will it simply become another tool in the photographer’s arsenal? Or will photographers and image-makers coexist harmoniously in the same world? Together, but separate.

We’ll find out soon enough.

As for the festival, Glaviano’s curation is always inspiring and thought-provoking, and we expect nothing less from PhotoVogue 2023.

Visit PhotoVogue’s website for the full lineup of exhibitions and more information.

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