AI & Fauxtojournalism Part II

By David Butow –

Photographer Michael Christopher Brown, a well-respected documentary photographer with a half-million Instagram followers stirred up tremendous controversy recently with his creation and IG publication of AI imagery about a real series of events, the Cuban political crisis from the early 1960’s.

Brown was an early adopter of Instagram and iPhone photography and he is known for working in different styles and formats. His plan was to release these images as NFT’s. He says was not trying to fool anyone, and in fact starts all his posts on the subject with “THIS IMAGERY IS NOT REAL” (caps are his). How you define “real” begs a million questions, of course.

On their own, Brown’s pictures are aesthetically pleasing and dynamic. They portray the characters in a dignified, even heroic light, and to me, look like stills from a very good movie. Nevertheless, the comment sections on the IG posts are filled with much criticism as well as praise. Not too many people are suggesting the pictures aren’t good, the issue is whether or not they are a good idea.

Blind magazine published an opinion piece by Amber Terranova on the project and how this fits in to the broader debate about faux and photojournalism.

• Also very controversial was Amnesty International’s use of an AI generated photograph in a recent campaign. While these sorts of promotions are not the same as journalism, one would think that an organization whose raison d’être is based on real conditions of the world, would want to show imagery of things that really exist. But here they didn’t.

• One of the most respected contemporary voices in photography commentary is Fred Ritchin, Dean Emeritus of the School at the International Center of Photography and former picture editor of the New York Times Magazine. Here is a recent piece that discusses these issues “The Challenge to the Photographic Record: A Reflection”

• Read more about Adobe’s Content Authority Initiative

• Trupic , one of the new companies making software to help secure digital provenance.

Vox article on the various efforts happening online to root out AI versus real photography

• The New York Times runs a reliability test on AI detection software

Above is a screen shot from Michael Christopher Brown’s Instagram feed showing his AI-generated pictures of the Cuban revolution.

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