You’ve Taken Great Photos? They Must Be AI-Generated!

Jesus Super Bowl ad
One of the photos seen by hundreds of millions of people during the Super Bowl. How many of them thought it was AI-generated?

During Sunday’s Super Bowl commercials, a set of incredible photos were seen by some 123 million people. Regardless of where you stand on the Jesus-themed ad, it was a pretty cool moment for photography.

Well, it would have been if it wasn’t for the fact that the year is 2024 and artificial intelligence has taken hold. Some people didn’t buy that the images were taken by a photographer and instead thought they had been made by a machine like Midjourney or DALL-E.

SB Nation, a Vox Media-owned publication, published an article calling it “the worst Super Bowl ad” because they wrongly believed it was AI.

But it wasn’t AI. I spoke to the photographer Julia Fullerton-Batton who took the amazing photos and said she was “very sad” that people were dismissing her work as AI-generated.

She has since taken to Instagram to reiterate that, “They are not AI. They are beautifully crafted images that involve a large team of creative people with set designers and crafted lighting.”

Fullerton-Batton’s images came from a “highly staged, cinematic scenario”. The lighting is intricate — she had 15 photo assistants helping and described it as being like an “enormous TV crew.”

Super Bowl Jesus Foot Washing ad

Her photos of people washing other people’s feet instantly reminded me of Gregory Crewdson’s work. Crewdson’s high-production values and eerie concepts give off an uncanny vibe — similar to AI images.

Are We Screwed?

It is hugely disheartening to think that untold numbers of people watched that Jesus ad and presumed the photos were AI-generated.

However, it is always possible to find out the real story behind something like this and certainly everyone here at PetaPixel will continue to shine a light on the issue.

And it wasn’t like AI was the main topic of the discussion around the advertisement. He Gets Us, the group that commissioned Fullerton-Batton, received criticism from both left and right-wing commentators for its take on Christianity’s message.

So, no, all hope is not lost for photographers.

Image credits: Photographs by Julia Fullerton-Batton