ChatGPT, Midjourney… etc.
Recently, many people have been talking about AI. The street photos created by AI look so real that they will likely become even more realistic in a few years or months.
On the other hand, some photographers argue that AI-generated photos are “fake.” And I feel that there are actually more people who reject AI photos.
But to me, it’s an irrelevant debate.
That’s because while many people use the term “photo,” what they’re actually discussing is the idea of an “image.” I don’t really care how an image should be. As a photographer, I’m not an image maker.
Are you a photographer or an image maker?
The definition of a photographer has changed over time. In the past, when owning a camera was difficult for most people, those who had a camera and could take photos were called photographers.
However, in modern times, anyone can take good photos with a smartphone, and with the internet, it’s easy to access knowledge and techniques to create good photos.
Therefore, there are many Instagram accounts with thousands of followers that post photos (images) that get a lot of likes, but some of these influencers are, in my opinion, more like “image makers” than photographers.
This is because regardless of the quality of the camera, the composition or color of the photo, all photos on the internet are just “images,” and people who only create good images are, to me, simply “image makers.”
It’s not necessarily a bad thing to be an image maker, but it’s important to distinguish whether you are a photographer or an image maker.
So what is a photographer?
To me, a photographer is an artist and a way of life. They use photo expressions to convey something, whether it’s raising awareness about social issues or showcasing their minority values. They live with a way of life that expresses something through photographic expression.
If you choose this way of life, you won’t be satisfied with just creating “good images” based on composition or color. These design elements are just tools to convey a message. Without a message, a photo is just a designed image.
Since expression requires an audience, creating an image is not enough. You must also think about how to convey that image, sometimes by involving people and working on projects in a planned way.
Some older generations may say that photos taken with digital cameras are not “real” photos, but those reading this blog probably don’t think that way. Similarly, if an AI-created image is effective in achieving a goal, I believe it should be used.
Is the fact that AI-generated images are not real really a problem?
Is a photograph really reflecting the real world? There is a painting by René Magritte called “The Treachery of Images” which features an image of a pipe and the words “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (This is not a pipe) written underneath it.
Magritte was expressing that the painting was simply an image of a pipe and not actually a pipe itself. It is simply a representation of a pipe, not the real thing.
Similarly, even photographs taken in the real world are not really reflections of reality. They are simply images that reflect reality. Many photographers edit their photos using Lightroom, intentionally emphasizing shadows, increasing contrast, adjusting color, and so on.
Even if the shapes captured in the image are the same as what you saw in the real world, there can be a discrepancy between the real information that your eyes captured and the image. Can such a photograph be called a reflection of reality?
Furthermore, photographs only capture a portion of reality that the photographer has chosen to capture. Many people are familiar with Robert Capa’s 1936 photograph “Falling Soldier.”
It was later revealed that the photo was staged, but it wasn’t until more than 70 years after it was published that this was discovered. Photographs have the ability to deceive people into thinking that they are real images.
Given these characteristics of photography, it is not the issue of whether the image reflects reality or not that is the problem. Rather, the problem lies in the fact that people can lie in photos. The use of AI to generate images that are not real is not really an issue in and of itself.
If we consider the camera to be a machine that generates photos by inputting “light” as information and outputting an image, then we can think of Midjourney as a machine that generates images by inputting “language” as information and outputting an AI image.
If we consider film cameras to generate film photos and digital cameras to generate digital photos, then it is also possible to consider AI-generated images as AI photos.
AI-generated images are just another form of technology that has evolved to create tools for photographers. As artists, it is up to us to decide how to use these tools.
In conclusion, the fact that AI-generated images are not real is not really a problem. We can use the technology created by AI just like we use digital cameras.
As artists, it is our responsibility to figure out how to use these technologies to create our art.
Of course, in a month’s time, I may have a different opinion. I would love to hear your thoughts. DM me on Instagram.
P.S. Considering the Winny copyright infringement case
The file-sharing software “Winny,” which applies P2P technology developed by Isamu Kaneko, was released in 2002. However, illegal uploads ignoring copyright laws became prevalent, and in 2004, Kaneko was arrested on suspicion of assisting copyright infringement.
After a long trial, Kaneko was acquitted in 2011, but he passed away at the young age of 43 due to acute myocardial infarction.
The question is whether the problem lies in Winny itself or the users who conducted illegal uploads. I believe this is a similar debate as to whether the creator of a knife that can kill people is responsible or the person who uses it to kill people is responsible.
Naturally, it is the users who conducted illegal uploads that are responsible, not Winny, which is a product of technology.
NEW ZINE RELEASED.
Yusuke Nagata’s fourth zine, his first in two years, has finally been released.
This time, I am also offering a limited-edition print set. From a selection of 6 images, you can choose either darkroom prints or inkjet prints.
Want to create the best memories in Tokyo? Join my darkroom workshop!
Join our tour, where you’ll shoot with film, develop, and print your photos in a darkroom, all in one day.
Every participant will receive one roll of film as a gift. If you prefer, instead of you taking the photos, the guide can also take street portraits of you.