Words by Rikesh Chauhan, photography by Lydia Collins.
"A society that has lost touch with its creative side is an imprisoned society, in that generations of people may be closed minded. It broadens our perspectives and can help us overcome prejudices." - Jessica Carson, YOUTH.
On the off chance you’ve been living under a rock (which, in the current climate, I wouldn’t exactly blame you) you would have seen the prominence of AI in the creative sectors, specifically within creative design, pitch decks, photography and copywriting. Now, given that I have at one point in my career done all of these things, I can’t help but feel as if my position as a freelance creative in the UK is becoming more and more precarious. I’m essentially looking at the road ahead, knowing I can only really embrace artificial intelligence and learn to code and prompt; or refuse to adapt and wait to become obsolete. Can’t lie, Luke and I have pondered the idea of ChatGPT and Midjourney when it comes to the future of the magazine…
Or is it not as black and white as I think it is? In situations like this, it’s always good to open a discourse with like-minded individuals. So I pitched a few questions to Anton Welcome, Lydia Collins and Rashpal Amrit. Here’s what they had to say.
The emergence of AI in the creative field, whilst in its early stages, is dividing opinions. What are the advantages and disadvantages for you right now?
Anton Welcome: Like anything out there, there is a lot of noise about its potential, and, in good human fashion, we’re seeing a rise in fear of what it might do when it begins to thrive. I’m seeing the emergence in photography as a potential advancement into the next level of creative productivity. It’s looking promising already in terms of ironing out some of the complexities in the world of image processing, as well as idea generation.
Lydia Collins: It’s hard to know where and how Creative AI is going to go and what the long term benefits of this will be—I have dividing opinions on the matter but I do see there potentially being a benefit in terms of work flow. Most of my time as a photographer, much like many, is spent on editing. An advantage of Creative AI could be to speed up the post-production side of my job, enabling me more time to physically photograph; the side of my career that I love the most. A serious disadvantage for me is that Creative AI could have the potential to take away the personalised aspect to any job, especially in the creative industry when all is down to being subjective and interpretive.
Rashpal Amrit: AI enables me to create concepts in quicker ways, although this doesn’t replace my creative thought process. The emergence of programme plugins interest me more than actual AI apps or platforms. The disadvantage is the accuracy and infancy of the current technology, for instance, how it renders typography and signage. That being said, it is getting better at a rapid pace.
Are you for or against it?
AW: It’s really hard to say in full confidence, but in its infancy and having trialled it myself, we’re in a position in the creative industries to harness it for the better.
LC: My gut tells me that I am against it. Machines cannot interpret meaning in art the same way as a human can. I feel there is space for AI in certain aspects of work but for me, the creative industry isn’t one of these. Being creative is a freedom, a form of expression and for day-to-day living, it’s an opportunity for humans to problem solve more openly with innovation. A quote that has always stuck with me is, ‘A society that has lost touch with its creative side is an imprisoned society’, and I really feel this to be true. Creativity comes in so many different forms and with AI potentially taking this over from humans, it could be super devastating.
RA: I am all for AI, but there needs to be a clear indication when it is used. Platforms such as Midjourney can create results which make it hard to distinguish between reality and fantasy.
Will this change the course of photography as we know it?
AW: We’ve seen the controversy of some of the images it renders and how it can potentially misconstrue public figures, or drive a metaphorical stick in understanding what is real and what is not. My only future thought would be that if we begin to see mass unrealistic images churning out of the AI engine, will consumers become unable to tell the difference between real and AI-processed? I guess this, again, will be dependent on how we as users harness this tool. The big controversy of the Pope in a Moncler jacket really ruffled a lot of feathers, casting a bad spell for where AI could go if not monitored. And we all saw how Crypto currency went when it became unhinged. Hopefully we don’t make the same mistakes.
LC: Things change a lot and they change fast. My personal view on all forms of AI is there needs to be some form of management and control. It has the potential to become out of control if not governed correctly. One thing humans can do that AI cannot is add meaning, interpretation and direct emotion within the imagery.
RA: Yes it will, but I don’t think it can replace how a real creative mind works. Creativity in the photography space will be key in order to justify a photographer’s work. Photographers have always adapted to new technologies and ways of working; however AI is one of the biggest leaps forward in recent history.
Does this make getting into photography easier (AI can help create visuals that you might not have the skillset to execute) or harder (with it being so much more accessible, will it be harder to stand out?)
AW: What makes photography such a beautiful thing is how the artist shows us creativity through their lens. If, as a wider industry, we begin to go overkill with AI use, we will swiftly see the extraordinary become the expected, which will inevitably kill things off.
LC: Photography is an extremely expansive subject matter, with so many different avenues and forms. I don’t think it will prevent people getting into photography as such, I think it will just add a new dimension to the art.
RA: AI can help create the imagery instantly; however it cannot replace the fundamental skills that make a photographer a photographer.
What does the future look like for you with this technological advancement?
AW: I’m still in the midst of working out what it can do for me, but solely in the sense of workload and efficiency, I’m keen to see AI optimise my time rather than take the wheel completely. For example, if we can use AI to smash out editing in a preset that I want to emphasise my creative style, this for me is a great way of potentially harnessing it. But to go off and use it to just alter images and create the unimaginable….. I’m not sure that’s right (for me anyway).
LC: I don’t see my style, workflow and clients changing anytime soon and I can’t see myself transitioning to solely using AI as that is not why I started photography. I will keep myself up to date in terms of new developments and seeing where these go. I think it would be naive to think that AI isn’t going to come into play in aspects of technology but again, if it’s governed correctly, I think it’s an exciting development that is there to excel humankind rather than diminish it.
RA: Currently it's seen as a novelty, but with the introduction to tools such as Photoshop using AI-enabled neutral filters and BETA tools such as Portrait Generator, I can see it being used as a serious tool in the creative space. The results are fast and believable, which is great but scary in the same sense.
An example of Colourise AI Neutral Filter in Adobe Photoshop by Rashpal Amrit.