Boris Eldagsen, the German photographer who won the prestigious SONY World Photography Contest, has turned down the award after confessing that his image was an Artificial Intelligence (AI) creation.

Eldagsen, a former student of photography and visual arts at the Art Academy of Mainz, and Conceptual Art and Intermedia at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, had submitted his photograph titled ‘Pseudomnesia: The Electrician’ for the creative open category. The photo was a haunting black-and-white image of two women from different generations.

In a statement posted on his website, Eldagsen said he ‘applied as a cheeky monkey’ to check if photography competitions are prepared to identify AI images, but they are not.



“We, the photo world, need an open discussion,” Eldagsen wrote. “A discussion about what we want to consider photography and what not. Is the umbrella of photography large enough to invite AI images to enter – or would this be a mistake? With my refusal of the award I hope to speed up this debate.”

Eldagsen thanked the judges for picking his photograph for the award, pointing out that this was a historic moment because for the first time an AI image had won a prestigious photography competition, and hoped that this would encourage them to recognize the difference between real and AI generated photographs.

“How many of you knew or suspected that it was AI generated? Something about this doesn’t feel right, does it? AI images and photography should not compete with each other in an award like this. They are different entities. AI is not photography. Therefore I will not accept the award.”

A spokesperson from the World Photography Organisation has confirmed in a statement that Eldagsen had revealed to them that his image was created using AI, before he had been announced as a winner.

“In our correspondence, he explained how following ‘two decades of photography, my artistic focus has shifted more to exploring creative possibilities of AI generators’ and further emphasising the image heavily relies on his ‘wealth of photographic knowledge’. As per the rules of the competition, the photographers provide the warranties of their entry. The creative category of the open competition welcomes various experimental approaches to image making from cyanotypes and rayographs to cutting-edge digital practices. As such, following our correspondence with Boris and the warranties he provided, we felt that his entry fulfilled the criteria for this category, and we were supportive of his participation.”