World Press Photo backs down and will not allow the use of AI images in any category

Could an AI-generated image win a World Press Photo? Although the name of the contest itself seems to make it clear that this is about photography and not images generated by artificial intelligence, someone in the organization of the best-known photojournalism contest in the world thought it appropriate to ask the question. And put the debate on the table.


A matter so controversial that in a few hours he had to change his mind. After announcing new rules that allowed the use of AI tools in some categories, World Press Photo has just announced that it is reversing and leaving out any images generated using this technology.


In just a decade have we gone from discussing the limits of editing a RAW to allowing a computer generated image to be considered photojournalism? What about ‘The Book of Veles’ by Jonas Bendiksen denouncing the fake news based on false images you already know little and do you have to go one step further?

It was impossible not to ask these questions in light of World Press Photo’s decision, which, on the one hand, completely prohibits AI and any editing tool based on it in its contest, but did give the green light to its use within the “Open format” category. ».

«Optics-based cameras»

A relatively recent section and almost always surrounded by controversy in which more room is left for creative editing, montages and collages are allowed and, ultimately, the classic rules of photojournalism about adding or removing elements are diluted. The image of Yael Martínez (World Press Photo 2022) that appears on the cover of the article is a good example of this.

boriseldagsen-SWPA-2023-IA This image generated by AI and chosen at the Sony World Photo Awards was already a source of controversy this year.

Taking into account that in this category it is allowed to add texts or graphics, AI is just another tool, reflected those responsible for World Press Photo. Of course, with one condition: the base had to remain a “photograph created with a camera based on optics,” they specified.

Curious definition, by the way, to refer to cameras as opposed to we don’t really know what. And what about the pinholes?, someone who wants to sharpen the World Press Photo rules might ask. After all, they are cameras without optics, but it does not seem that that is the debate now.

In short, both the use of AI-based tools and the inclusion of elements created by artificial intelligence as part of a composition were going to be perfectly valid in World Press Photo within that open format.

An argument that lasted a few hours. The harsh criticism of the decision and, above all, the role and responsibility of World Press Photo in defending photography against AI images seem to have outweighed the organization’s desire to fuel a controversy that in itself alone is already quite complex.

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