Photographer wins AI image contest with a real photograph and is then disqualified when the truth is discovered

Photographer Miles Astray recently submitted a photo featuring a flamingo with its head bending into its body to a contest for AI-generated images, sponsored by 1839 Awards. The judges awarded him third place in the AI category and he also won the first place People's Vote Award for the AI category. However, once the contest discovered that Astray hadn't actually used AI but, rather, took the photo himself, he was disqualified. 

Art News states that the judges were from the New York Times, Chritie's (the auction house), and the publishing house Phaidon. Art News also explains that Astray purposefully submitted his photograph to the AI category in order to "advocate for human-made pictures." They quote Astray:

"With AI-generated content remodelling the digital landscape rapidly while sparking an ever-fiercer debate about its implications for the future of content and the creators behind it – from creatives like artists, journalists, and graphic designers to employees in all sorts of industries – I entered this actual photo into the AI category of 1839 Awards to prove that human-made content has not lost its relevance, that Mother Nature and her human interpreters can still beat the machine, and that creativity and emotion are more than just a string of digits."

Even though Astray's winning photograph was deleted from the 1839 Awards website, the artist "treated the debacle as a victory." Again, Art News quotes Astray:

"I hope that winning over both the jury and the public with this picture, was not just a win for me but for many creatives out there. I won't go as far as to say that it's a win for Mother Nature herself because I think she's got bigger things on her plate; who knows, maybe AI can help her with that, by computing climate change models and the likes."

On the contest website, the 1839 Awards provides this overview of its history and mission:

Named after the year the medium was first made widely available to the public, 1839 Awards offers a series of competitions honoring the most remarkable photographers using photography as an art form.

To see Miles Astray's winning photograph, entitled "F L A M I N G O N E," along with more of his work, check out his website or Instagram.