A photograph that was recently submitted to a local fashion photography competition was disqualified after it was suspected to have been generated using artificial intelligence (AI). The image shows the photographer’s son, posing alongside two floral-dressed mannequins in a red bathroom, at an exhibition of luxury fashion brand Gucci. The contest, which offers a modest $500 prize to the winner, was held by Charing Cross Photo (CCP), a retail store based in Sydney, Australia.
Last week, Charing Cross Photo announced that the image, submitted by Suzi Dougherty, an Australian actor and amateur photographer would be disqualified. The Guardian reported earlier this week that CCP’s owner, Ian Anderson, who oversees the cash award reviewed the image’s metadata and was unable to determine if the image was AI-generated.
Dougherty has said that she took the image of her son Casper using an iPhone, telling the Guardian, “I wouldn’t even know how to do an AI photo, I’m just getting my head around ChatGPT.”
The traveling showcase “Gucci Garden Archetypes,” an immersive exhibition put on by the Italian luxury label to mark its 100th anniversary, first opened in Florence in May 2021. It then traveled to the Powerhouse Museum in November 2022.
In an Instagram post published Tuesday, Charing Cross Photo confirmed the photograph was indeed real and corrected its mistake after Doughterty had clarified how the image was produced and identified the man in the photograph was her son.
In a previous post published last week, CCP had described how the competition was intended to highlight images from “real life experience.”
“It is a great play on what is real and not in our world indeed,” CCP said in the statement. “Sadly for the entrant the timing was not great considering that AI is such a hot topic, and without the background info we felt the need to question the entire image.” CCP thanked Dougherty for making the correction, despite being passed up for the prize ultimately, and for “helping to create the conversation about AI.”
Disputes around the authenticity of AI-generated images in various fields are ongoing. Some artists have argued AI breaches legal standards around copyright. In April, German artist Boris Eldagsen forfeited a Sony award designated by the World Photography Organization after an image he produced using artificial intelligence was questioned by the award’s judges. The image, The Electrician, appears like a vintage photograph depicting two women donning midcentury styles. The photography organization said talks around Eldagsen’s method ended in discord after questions were raised about the use of AI and transparency, saying it tried and failed “to engage in a meaningful and constructive dialogue” with the artist.