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  • Writer's pictureSey Rosen

Modern-day Street Photography & Artificial Intelligence

Sey Rosen writes about Street Photography and Artificial Intelligence.

In the modern world, technologies are advancing faster than the speed of light. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the basics of storytelling, to be passed on to future generations, which are still as valid as they have been for thousands of years. First orally, then visually – cave drawings, carvings – until today’s modern electronic tools. Street Photography and Reportage has, since its inception, simply been the natural continuation of the authentic storytelling of the historical human condition and environment.

image: Sey Rosen

Street Photography itself has many different sub-genres and often the lines between these genres are blurred especially with Documentary and Reportage Photography. The Street Photography we are discussing here is about telling the story without words by the photographer who saw it happening, spontaneously and instinctively recording that split second of history for future generations to learn about the way we lived in our times. The images made are as the maker viewed the scene and are never changed except for minor adjustments – lighting, composition, etc. – to compensate for the equipment’s inability to mimic perfectly the human eye, heart, soul, and brain. The images we see are true, valid, and authentic historical documents created by the tools available to the recorders at the time. It is an Art Form in itself and thus stands alone besides all the other Art forms as we know them.

As the Digital Age has surrounded us at high speed, technologies have changed. Artificial Intelligence, AI, has rocketed into our world. Electronics have opened the door to a completely new set of tools for humans to wrap their heads around and there are those who have opened their arms to it. They don’t need to think or create any more! The machine and its algorithms do it all for them. The Digital Age has created a whole new Genre and sub-genres of Art.

For Graphic Artists and others who wish to create Digital Art, AI is simply the latest tool in their toolbox. Many Graphic Artists are delighted by what they consider Adobe’s latest Photoshop updates to be game changers with the AI-improved Object Selection and Generated Fill tools, although these improvements are still only in the Beta stage and cannot be used for commercial work yet, we see where this advancement is going. There are other leading photo apps that are introducing more and more AI into their toolboxes. Lightroom, On1, Topaz Labs, DxO, Capture One, and Luminar just to name a few, not even mention all the cell phone cameras. So it seems that AI is here to stay and will only get bigger.

images: Sey Rosen & Artificial Intelligence

BUT, and yes it’s a big BUT. The more AI is used by photographers, the less authentic their Art is becoming! The enormous changes have enabled photographers to completely create images that don’t reflect the original photo at all. To the point that we, the viewers, may not recognize AI-generated or modified images. Street Photography, as mentioned previously, in its purest form is the AUTHENTIC and TRUE VISION of that split second of daily life as captured in the eye, heart and soul of the photographer and is a HISTORIC DOCUMENT. It is NOT a work of ART created by the Artist’s imagination and AI. Due to the limitations of the tools and media, all photographs need to be post-processed once they have been removed from the camera. For Street Photographers this is a process of minor corrections and adjustments of lighting, composition etc. which bring back the photographer’s original concept of their eye, heart and soul of that historical moment. Minimal use of post-processing tools, including AI is part and parcel of creating an authentic image.

All of the above brings us to the very touchy and taboo subject of human behaviour. Words such as integrity, honesty, sincerity, truth, faithful, valid, authentic, genuine, self-esteem, etc., spring to mind. Whilst on the other hand words such as deception, false, fake, bogus, counterfeit, fraudulent, plagiarism, phony, synthetic, etc., too, spring to mind. There are many, many who will grab the opportunity to jump on the AI bandwagon and try to fool us and more so themselves that they are ‘artists’. Yes, they are con artists. True Street Photographer does not need to compromise their integrity and self-esteem with fake images. Another aspect of human behaviour is the refusal to understand that the most basic requirement of all to create any form of Art, The God-given gift of Natural Talent. This talent needs to be recognised early on, encouraged, and nurtured. No matter what the field of endeavour, I believe each and every one of us has an inborn talent for at least one of the many possibilities whether it be science, mathematics, ball games, chess, backgammon, art, etc. The main requirement is the discovery of this talent and working very hard to develop it. There are those of us who may passionately love a subject and with much practice and learning become highly skilled craftspeople, but without the talent, there is always something

image: Sey Rosen

image: Sey Rosen

The main takeaway here shall be: Analog or Electronic/Digital/AI are two totally different technologies. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages, and it is important to choose the right technology for the task at hand. Street photography is rather about capturing moments in time, telling stories, and expressing oneself creatively. The technology used is simply a tool to help the photographer achieve their goals. A true street photographer can take amazing photos with any type of camera, irrespective of whether it is analog or digital. It is the photographer’s eyes, vision, and creativity that matter the most.

Author – Sey Rosen

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