‘This is Not Photography’: Gallery Criticized for Promoting AI Images

AI image
Screenshot from The Photographers’ Gallery Instagram page.

A gallery that claims to “champion photography” has been widely criticized after it shared a series of AI images to its Instagram account this weekend.

The Photographers’ Gallery, based in London, shared Mattia Dagani Rio’s computer-generated series Los Santos to its 285,000 Instagram followers who responded overwhelmingly negatively.

“This goes against all the principles of photography,” writes photographer Charlie Gray underneath one of the AI images. “Has the page been hacked?” Asks Russ O’Connell, picture editor of the Sunday Times Magazine.

The Los Santos series by Dagani Rio is a Grand Theft Auto themed series looking at gay and queer culture with the images created using screenshots from the ultra-successful video game.

The images are clearly synthetic and they are labeled as AI, dead giveaways such as multiple fingers make it patently obvious.

Dagani Rio’s Instagram pages mainly features authentic photography so it’s not clear as to why he posted a series of AI images, PetaPixel has reached out to him for clarification.

Dagani Rio posted 12 images this weekend, all of them AI, and the response was resoundingly negative with many people leaving comments declaring they will unfollow the page.

“Photography comes from the Greek word photo (light) and graph (draw),” writes photographer Tomas Russi. “That is, the act of drawing with light. In the process of generating an image with AI, there is no act of drawing, there is no light in the process, it’s just a bunch of 1s and 0s which depends on the work of real photographers whose images are used without permission.”

Some pointed out that the gallery was taking away an opportunity for photographers who use actual cameras.

“If you’re struggling for content to post, there are thousands of photographers that you could approach to feature on this account instead of AI work,” writes Katie Howery, a brand product photographer from England.

“Meanwhile, we, real photographers are struggling to have our work recognized or given attention,” adds published photographer Pedro Oliveira.

The Photographers’ Gallery, based in Central London, says on its website that it “continues to lead the way in championing photography for the widest possible audiences with the aim to further public engagement with, and awareness of, this universally relevant and inclusive medium.”

It’s worth noting that not everyone was critical of Dagani Rio’s work with some defending the AI project.

“Photographers sounds like painters from 1822,” writes @sunny.attias referring to the invention of photography in the early 19th-century. “I can get behind AI art when it’s used in this subversive way,” adds Inigo Blake.

PetaPixel reached out to The Photographers’ Gallery and Dagani Rio for comment, but both did not respond as of publication.