Instagram photographer admits his works are AI creations

The models used in Instagram photographer Joe Avery's pieces aren't real people but instead generated by Artificial Intellegence. Credit: Averyseasonart/Instagram

An Instagram photographer has admitted his photo portraits that have gained him nearly 30,000 followers are of people who do not exist.

Jos Avery's photography skills have been praised by fans, many of who did not realise they were created by Artifical Intelligence.

Mr Avery reportedly uses an AI image synthesis model Midjourney, to create images that he then retouches and posts on Instagram as photos.

He also gave each of his pieces a backstory, which he disclosed were fictional. With the AI, anyone can pay a subscription fee to generate art from text-based descriptions.

Midjourney specifically has been taught to synthesise images by being shown millions of examples from other artists. It can generate photorealistic images that can fool people into thinking they're real photos, especially if retouched.

The US-based artist revealed the nature of his art to website Ars Technica.

He said “I am honestly conflicted.

“My original aim was to fool people to showcase AI and then write an article about it. But now it has become an artistic outlet. My views have changed.”

When quizzed on the origin of his photos, Mr Avery was either vague about how he created the images or told people his works were actual photographs.

He even went on to describe which kind of camera he used to create them, Ars Technica reports, but guilt began to build as his popularity grew.

"[My Instagram account] has blown up to nearly 12K followers since October, more than I expected," wrote Mr Avery when he first reached out to Ars Technica in January.

"Because it is where I post AI-generated, human-finished portraits. Probably 95%+ of the followers don't realise. I’d like to come clean.

“The Instagram response has taken me off guard. The end art product resonates with people.”

His use of Artificial intelligence comes as systems increasingly take inspiration from famous artists, training themselves on a vast collection of digitised artworks to produce new images you can conjure in seconds from a smartphone app.

And as AI becomes a more active part of everyday life, will there be a point when art is no longer created but instead synthesised by a computer?

Speaking to ITV News last month, legendary Mexican director Guillermo del Toro says he hopes he "won't live to see that".

He said: "It can’t draw, it may be able to mix information and this and that. But if you put a human face in front of a machine, the machine cannot draw.

"It cannot give you the soul, it cannot give you the very act of creation, so I think right now some people may use it for illustration, I think that in my opinion there is no substitution for the act of expressing an emotion, that’s what art is.

"Art is not there to illustrate, art is not there to decorate, art is there is there to express pain and [the] need to have a voice, so for me it's almost an affront in the face of the universe." 

Mr Avery still believes that his work is creative and the deception is something that is prevelant throughout photography.

“It seems ‘right’ to disclose [AI-generated art] many ways - more honest, perhaps,” Mr Avery told Ars Technica.

“However, do people who wear makeup in photos disclose that? What about cosmetic surgery? Every commercial fashion photograph has a heavy dose of Photoshopping, including celebrity body replacement on the covers of magazines.

“The creative process is still very much in the hands of the artist or photographer, not the computer.”

He added that creating his 160 plus Instagram posts took “an enormous amount of effort” as he had to generate 13,723 images.

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