A.I.? D.I.Y.!

Self-portrait ~ "Painting In The Caves Of VallaurisSelf-portrait ~ "Painting In The Caves Of Vallauris When it comes to creating (*generating) images using Artificial Intelligence tools, I ask students (really any photographers), can you do that without A.I.? Do you have the requisite skills and know-how to create these same images on your own? If not, then maybe you’re not the artist you think you are. If your first response is “No I’m not that’s why I need A.I.!” then why not simply call yourself a “prompt writer,” that’s more accurate to the task? I’m not being facetious here, I genuinely want to know how you can use the work of others, generated by a relatively mysterious algorithm that you simply “prompted” to do the task for you? 
 

When I was toiling away in my high school darkroom, learning everything I could possibly learn about photography, my wonderful teacher and mentor loaned me a monograph called “Silver Meditations” by Jerry Uelsmann. Do a Google image search on Jerry and you’ll see why my tender, impressionable young photo mind was blown away! 
I learned in high school how do work just like Jerry. I taught myself how to do composite images by studying that monograph. Now while I could have used multiple enlargers like he did, I developed my own technique of using a single enlarger, partially developing each negative’s exposure on photo paper so I could see on the print precisely where each element was in order to mask and expose the next negative (many years later I took what I learned from that technique and applied it in a unique fashion to create some incredible works on Polaroid films.) It was a painstaking process but it helped me to get results that were very Uelsmann-esq. I created some really wonderful images back then, and felt I was really learning the language of photography. There was just one problem…

Jerry UelsmannJerry Uelsmann I was copying another artist’s work. Now while I was not copying his exact images, and I was using my own negative images to create my composites, I was copying Jerry’s style to such a close degree it was uncanny. It is such an iconic signature style that only he could legitimately lay claim to it. Anyone else doing it would simply be seen as a wannabe copycat. And I knew that, and that’s why none of my work from that time survives. I knew when I made my way out in the wider photo world that I couldn’t do it legitimately copying another artist’s style. Of course being “influenced” by other artists is fine and dandy and to be expected. You have to learn the lessons their work teaches, and harvest the seeds there and make your own unique work. The image of Jerry above I took the first time I met him in person at a lecture he gave many, many years after those high school darkroom days. It is one homage I made of my mentor that I photographed on my digital camera and processed later on an iPhone. I wanted this image to look as close to the analog film process we both came from, and which Jerry inhabited until his passing. 
LayersLayers So getting back to the question of A.I. image generating, it appears that there are many users (shall we just call them “prompters”?) of the A.I. tech that are putting words in their prompts to create a piece of “Art” in the style of, say, Picasso or Rembrandt, or even in the style of more contemporary artists. If you read my previous post on A.I. and Ethics, there is a link to a video from just such an artist whose signature style is being Xeroxed by people using these A.I. tools and presumably making money from it! This is simply wrong, ethically, morally, and hopefully legally (a lot of “llys” in that sentence! 😉) 

It is like these “prompters” are sending out minions of unknown origins (don’t think of A.I. as a single entity unto itself) to scrape the web and return with images. While there are definite uses for A.I. to ease repetitive tasks and make many aspects of life better, I have to say generating Art/Photography is not one of them. Let artists make Art in the deep way that brings skill, craft, and soul (yes, I used the S word!) to the picture, and don’t send anonymous minions to furtively take other artists’ work (even when it’s offered up freely) or copy their style. That’s just plain lazy! 

Tango d'Yves TanguyTango d'Yves Tanguy Do your own work and D.I.Y., you’ll get far more self satisfaction and a feeling of creative control. 

 


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