An Australian Photographer Was Disqualified From a Photo Contest After Her Submission Was Mistakenly Deemed A.I.-Generated


An Australian photographer’s work was disqualified from a photo contest after being mistakenly deemed to have been generated by artificial intelligence.

Suzi Dougherty, an actress in the Sydney suburb of Waverly, had entered a photo contest run by the print shop Charing Cross Photo seeking to award the best local fashion photographs. She said she was “shocked” when she found out her photo was disqualified on suspicions it was created with A.I.

Dougherty called the mix-up an “honest mistake” and said she’s still an “avid fan” of the print shop, which she said is a “great little store.” Still, the case is the latest test for how artificial intelligence impacts artists and shows how photo experts appear to be grappling with the capabilities of the technology.

In an interview with Artnet News, Dougherty said the image she selected was one of several she had taken during a mini photoshoot with her 18-year-old son Caspar at “Gucci Garden Archetypes” in Sydney, a now-ended immersive exhibition that explored the fashion giant’s advertising campaigns.

“I did a few different setups. So there were numerous setups in the room. I was in the room for about 10 minutes and felt bad because people were queuing,” she said. “There were different photos but I liked this the best.”

A variant of the photo Dougherty submitted to the photo contest. Photo courtesy of Suzi Dougherty.

In the image she selected, Caspar is seen wearing a red Lacoste sweater over a white T-shirt and dark slacks with a large chain necklace. He appears to be mid-gait, looking stoically to the left of the frame with his left hand reaching backward to grasp that of a male mannequin behind him.

“I had this narrative that they were his two friends in the nightclub bathroom. I had the whole story around it and this was definitely the most narrative one,” Dougherty said, describing her process in taking the photograph.

One variant, reminiscent of Matisse’ shows Caspar apparently holding the hands of the female mannequin being led by the male mannequin as reflected in the bathroom’s mirror. Another shows a wide shot of the bathroom with Caspar at the hand dryer and the woman looking at the camera.

One variant shows a wide shot of the bathroom with Caspar at the hand dryer with the woman looking at the camera. Photo courtesy of Suzi Dougherty

“I legitimately cannot think of why they thought it was A.I.,” Dougherty said of the photo she chose. Artnet News has reached out to Charing Cross Photo for comment.

“I was like seriously shocked because I don’t really follow A.I.—not into it and don’t make it. I always thought it would be something spacey and digital,” she said. “So I was genuinely kind of confused in a naïve way, now that I know a little something about it after this week.”

Dougherty, who is not a professional photographer, added she took the photo with her phone and has since learned that A.I. processes are already increasingly being used in cameras and phone cameras. She added that her son has since tried recreating the photo with A.I. with poor results.

Suzi Dougherty’s son Caspar tried recreating the contested photo using artificial intelligence with poor results. Photo courtesy of Suzi Dougherty

She decided to enter the photo contest after a friend came over to her home and saw a print of the photo she had made for her late mother who loved fashion but could not go to the exhibition.

“I found out the whole thing on Instagram that I had been disqualified,” Dougherty said. “I thought it was quite funny… and then I did speak to them and they were really apologetic and they said they were paranoid about A.I.”


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