Decisive Moments by A.I.

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(For A.I. poll, please go here.)

For years it has been in development, but in recent months, there has been remarkable breakthroughs in artificial intelligence — especially in the field of generative AI, that enables machines to create text and images.

The operative word is create. AI creates. It doesn’t provide facts, will lie with brazeness of a politician, and doubledown on mistakes (e.g. 1+1 = 3). But its artistic abilities are great. You can ask AI to write a James Bond script, paint Spongebob in style of Van Gogh, or compose an ode to Einstein in iambic pentameter.

So it can paint. Can it take photos in a style of a particular photographer. This is a tricky terrain since AI-generated images can still look surreal, dreamlike, and artificially lit — not a bad thing for paintings but can be tricky for photos, where you can end up with uncanny valley.

I set out to explore.

I use Henri Cartier-Bresson — partly because he was arguably the most famous and accessible photojournalist of last century (meaning there’s a lot of photos by him as reference material) and he has a distinctive style and visual elements that AI can learn to recognize. (Midjourney maintains a training set of photographers).

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So what’s the verdict?

Even the current photos don’t look that realistic, but it has made huge improvements in last 4-6 months. I cannot imagine what it can do in 2-3 months’ time.

Copying the style of one photographer seems to be the more challenging part. Unlike van Gogh or Leonardo or Turner, the style of a photographer can be hard to pin down, when many photographers may use similar framings, similar cameras and settings, and the same photographer will use different cameras and settings.

For me, I have tried to generate some of the photos above using these settings: “Leica M10 Monochrom. ISO 400, f/4, 1/125s, 35mm”.

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If you like what I do and what I write, or simply wants me to write more, you can support me via Patreon. I had tremendous fun researching and writing Iconic Photos, and the Patreon is a way for this blog to be self-sustaining.

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What sort of iconic photos / images from past eras you want to see? In which photographer’s style? Please go and comment. (https://www.patreon.com/posts/poll-iconic-by-i-80820823)

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