In the beginning, God created film and the film was without color, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. In 1975, God said “Let there be digital,” and there was digital. God saw that the digital was good. In the years since these two photographic breakthroughs changed the way we see, capture and share our memories and personal experiences, all hell has broken loose.
In the year 2022, close to three years after the covid pandemic began, a new battle was being waged against photographers, writers and other artists across the globe. This new threat did not come from man himself, but from machine, promising endless and effortless art with just a few simple commands cast through the keyboard of their computers. Speaking art into the air like a wizard casting a spell with his staff. The rise of the Ai Machines had begun. To know where we are going, we first must look to our past.
When the first digital cameras were introduced, many traditional film photographers rejected the technology, with their entire heart and soul, pledging allegiance to the film, in which it was developed, in liberty and justice for all. Digital was sin. The devil. It was cheating!
By the time digital cameras reached the masses and began largely replacing film-based SLR’s in the 2000’s, there were only a handful of holdouts. Lonely and long winded soldiers of yesteryear full of tales from the dark side with shoeboxes full of film rolls and desks stacked with drum scans.
With the ability to capture as many frames as your memory card would allow, along with instant feedback through the LCD, numbers of new photographers began to skyrocket, seemingly threatening the livelihood and the pride of film photographers everywhere. A craft that had once taken many years if not decades to learn was now taking mere months to learn the fundamentals, for those who were dedicated to learning and practicing the craft. Fear of the coming storm sparked battles across the inter webs but ultimately, digital was victorious.
The Evil Force Known As Photoshop
This digital photography revolution, soon joined forces with a winged beast known as Photoshop, allowing reality to be warped, twisted and manipulated into gross representations of its former self. This pushed many of the Hasselblad and Pentax 645 toting photographers past their breaking points.
One lunatic even launched a kamakazie mission against notable digital photographers of the time including Marc Adamus, Miles Morgan, Ryan Dyar and the entire Photo Cascadia team through a ridiculous and disgusting battle known as the M.A.L blog. They even took a couple shots at me personally and I had only been a photographer for a few years at this point.
Today, these defeated and disgruntled film photographers are rumored to be rocking back and fourth in the corners of small, dark rooms, whispering to themselves about the sinful seeds of this demonic technology. They were so caught up in warning the world about the evils of Photoshop that they didn’t even see the real storm brewing….
When photoshop and digital photography combined, almost immediately, nature photographers began testing the limits of their digital files. In the beginning, many grabbed their pitchforks and called for justice when a photographer would clone out unwanted objects, stretch a composition or god forbid, swap out a sky. Fast forward to today and there are artists who barely use their photographs as a base anymore, extensively changing the reality of the original through warping, multiple file blending, perspective blending and even multi day and multi location composites affectionally called time-blending.
My personal take, and my concerns with the potential affect on nature photography by Ai-generated art is based on this history. Today, there are already artists, claiming to be photographers who have begun blending Ai-generated art into their nature scenes. I ran across an instagram account the other day full of dramatic and colorful “photographs” from Patagonia, where in fact the artist had never even been to the location.
The possibilities here, aside from the negative impacts on artists and photographers themselves, truly are joy killing in nature. If a photographer can create an entire portfolio from their couch, what have they gained? I can tell you what they have lost. They have lost the chance at the experience, the friendships, the memories and the health benefits that all come from nature photography. While they still may be exercising their creativity, all other benefits are seemingly tossed out in the cold, where the heart of their creator was born. The heart of a machine.
What Is Ai Art?
Most of us are aware of what artificial intelligence is on a basic level and if you’ve been keeping up with news in the tech field, you probably know about some of the functions that AI serves. Art production has become another of AI’s many capabilities, and as such, AI art refers to pieces of artwork that are generated by an AI program. Maybe you haven’t seen any Ai art for yourself? Here is a collection of mind-blowing Ai generated art from an artist known as Midjourney.man.
Artificial intelligence has been a work in progress for a number of years, and much of the credit for sourcing its development goes to Alan Turing. Turing, who was a computer scientist and mathematician, designed the Turing Test, which was used to determine a computer’s ability to exhibit human-like behaviors, including the development of intelligence. Scientists expanded upon this test and invented new technologies, to extend the abilities of artificial intelligence.
Today, AI can create works of art thanks to machine learning (technology that enables computers to teach themselves skills and knowledge based on the data they’re provided). Results can vary depending on the data that AI programs are supplied, but in general, this development makes it possible for machines to learn artistry.
AI-generated art is generated when an artist provides the program’s algorithms with rules and parameters to follow during the creation process. These rules might encourage the machine to embrace a specific style or work with a desired theme. With these rules in mind, AI algorithms will create colors, shapes, patterns, and the like to produce a unique piece of work.
Ai Art Applications
Several AI art generators exist online today, though, as mentioned above, the results produced can vary depending on the technology used and the input provided.
AI art can be generated in a couple of ways. One method involves typing in a prompt for the machine to follow. For example, if you wanted an image of a cat playing with a ball of yarn, you might create the following prompts:
“cat playing with a huge ball of yarn”
“Victorian-style painting of cat playing with a ball of yarn”
“cat ruining grandma’s knitting by playing with the ball of yarn”
The second method of creating AI art involves providing the machine with sample art pieces to use as inspiration. The first and second methods can also be combined to create a more well-rounded result.
Below is a list of several AI art generators available online. The cat prompts above were attempted through Google Deep Dream.
Google Deep Dream
DALL-E (now Craiyon)
In addition to AI-generated art, artificial intelligence is also attempting to produce written works. Like the process involved in creating AI art, users can provide AI programs with writing styles, samples, prompts, and more in order to produce a piece of writing.
Communities across the internet have posted the writing results they’ve collected from AI programs, and the overall quality varies in many cases. This far, AI performs quite well when it comes to producing well-outlined, repetitive, structured pieces of writing (emails and letters, for example). As such, it stands to become a time-saving tool for working professionals with the right prompting.
Utilizing AI tools for complex creative writing tasks might not be as effective as one would hope, though. Machine learning has come a long way since its inception, but it still has limitations to overcome in terms of quality, creativity, and authority.
The Impact of AI on the Creative Community
Professionals and hobbyists in the art community have mixed feelings about AI-generated art and AI art generators. It’s a hot-button topic at this point in time, so a combination of positive and negative impressions is expected.
Some artists and professional writers feel that AI programs present a threat to their traditional methods, while others are not concerned in the least. Of course, using AI art generation programs stand to change the way the world looks at creative labor, many artists and art enthusiasts find that the element of human creation remains an essential part of art’s value.
On the negative end, some programs have shown that they are capable of “stealing” work from existing artists, but in most cases, the concept of theft refers to the machine’s ability to mimic the unique styles displayed in the data they’re provided. For many artists, mimicking individual styles is enough to cause concern, as a machine’s ability to closely match the elements artists use to market their talents can lead to monetary loss.
AI has also proven to be a useful tool for other professionals in the art community. Because art is constantly evolving in its forms, some artists see the use of AI as the development of yet another way to enhance their creative processes. For example, some artists are using AI to explore their ideas and produce prompts that help guide them along the path they want a specific piece to follow.
Every artist and writer is entitled to their own impression of the way AI stands to affect their creative processes, and as of now, the larger implications associated with AI-generated art haven’t been fully explored.
Only Time Will Tell
Despite the impressive accomplishments made by machine learning, it’s difficult to imagine artificial intelligence programs replacing beloved artists. Regardless of the quality of the work created, artistry is still a human-dominated field. Though these programs are constantly developing the methods they follow to produce results, it’s unclear whether they’ll excel to a point where they become legitimate competition for professional artists. Some individuals feel that this issue is already a reality, but time will tell as further exploration unfolds.
Will natural nature photography prevail, or will the world of the future be full of portfolios that look like Avatar The Way of Water.