Ilkley Camera Club, 1 September 2023. 7.30pm Zoom.
Alison Tetley introduced the first speaker of the season, Joe Houghton who is a well known and respected speaker on a range of topics, particularly on the radical changes taking place in photography. Joe’s work has been featured in many international publications and by the Royal Photographic Society. He is an advisor to the Royal Photographic Society’s Digital Imaging group.
His online talk, introduced as a discussion among the 30 members, addressed the controversial subject of Artificial Intelligence. Joe began by describing AI as, “a fast moving field within which no-one knows what’s going to happen”. As Alison mentioned in her introduction, the implications of AI were already being felt by Ilkley Camera Club in relation to competition rules.
Joe began with a little of the history of AI explaining that it has been around for a long time, at least from the 1950s. It’s only recently that the subject has exploded into consciousness in the last year with Chat GPT (which stands for Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer which can answer questions and assist you with tasks, such as composing emails, writing essays).
In the world of photography there are now tools which are trained to look at images on the internet to create a new version of the picture. This generative process, as Joe explained, is controversially using other people’s images by “scraping” the internet for photographs.
Joe highlighted one of the most notorious examples of AI generated imagery entered into the Sony World Photography Awards (see left). The artist, Boris Eldagsen, turned down an award saying it was not a photograph at all but had been created using AI.
In the discussion the club members raised questions about the definition of photography. The points included the generation of images by light and the authorship of the pixels within the work. For example, it was felt that cloning or removing content in an image was ok but introducing pixels generated by a third party application was not ok. While it’s often difficult to know what has been done to an image, these questions were understood to be vitally important for club competitions.
In the discussion we also raised the impact of Artificial Intelligence on the photographic industry. Joe gave a startling demonstration of the power of AI to invent and modify images. Using a few prompt words in a dialogue box he was able to conjure up a white horse crossing a river in winter. As Joe said, these tools are having a profound impact on product photography and advertising at the expense of many professional photographers, designers, actors and models.
Members were quick to comment on the way AI generated images were given a particular style. For example, the sexualisation of characters which could present a danger, particularly for children using these tools.
The feedback from members after the discussion led by Joe has been excellent, described as one of the best and most relevant talks.
Ilkley Camera Club is currently meeting on Friday evenings at 7.30pm. Some meetings are held at St Peter’s Church Hall in Addingham and others on Zoom. For more information visit the Club website at ilkleycameraclub.co.uk or their Facebook page, facebook.com/ilkleycameraclub. Visitors are welcome.