>>>>>>UPDATE July 2023

Find the international press clipping and two YouTube playlists with reports and interviews/podcasts on the refusal of the SWPAon this page: https://www.eldagsen.com/refusal-of-swpa-press-clipping/

>>>>>>>>>>> UPDATE 26.04.23 

After many interviews of which you never know what will be cut out and shortened, I thank Erik Faarlund from Norway for this interview. 12 hours after I turned down the SWPA award, we were already talking and made this appointment. For those who still haven’t had enough of the topic and don’t yet have an overview of the chronology, I recommend this podcast.

For everyone else, check out my insta and facebook, I will be sharing excerpts from my photographic work, my video work and my promptography on a regular basis.

To the podcasters who asked me after April 16th: I’ll get back to you as soon as I’ve slept more than 6 hours and eaten regularly again.

>>>>>>>>>>> UPDATE 19.4.23 

As I stated before, “AI is not photography” – but what is it?

Peruvian photographer @christianvincesfoto came up with a great solution last weekend on facebook and we found out it has also popped up as a hashtag before: It is PROMPTOGRAPHY! What I love about this is:

A) It is a new term using a word that relates directly to the production of the image: #Prompting.
Some people suggested #syntography. But being born in the 70ties I have to many associations to the synthetic clothes I had to wear and the synthipop of the 80ties. 🙂 Yes, synthesis is the way the images are created but I am missing the role text plays in AI image genetation. And as a term synth… is too old. It is latin term. We need something that is contemporary, straight forward and can’t be misunderstood.

B) It encompasses that #promptographs can also look like drawings, paintings, 3d models..etc.

👉 So stop using misleading terms and Hastags like #aiphoto #aiphotoworks #aiphotography #aiphoto. Think twice. Think deeper. You can do it.

Call it PROMPTOGRAPHY or at least AI-generated image.

Thanks to Christian, and the whole photo world for entering the debate and turning my small facebook and insta posts to a world wide discussion!

>>>>>>>>>>> UPDATE 18.4.23 

This morning I had a long phone call with Mark Sellman from The Times, going through all the email conversations I had with worldphoto.org/CREO to get a clear chronolgy of the events. Here is my short version, below you can find the detailed chronology.



that you now want to give the impression that you wanted a dialogue but i don’t is nonsense. Only after I suggested for the third time that a public discussion is necessary did you offer me a Q&A on your blog to be published before the award ceremony – which I happily said yes to.

I waited 22 days in vain for these questions.

Also, pretending that they you knew the picture was AI is wrong. I told one of your assistants in lenght, but then after the press release your PR executive contacted me, being suprised about all the inquiries regarding my image and asking for more info.

I think you have a communication problem in your team. And also a communication problem with the photo community.

Many of my questions in email communication over the last months have never been answered by SWPA.

Press enquiries about whether my image is AI have not been answered, instead they have been dismissed with a generic quote.

Enquiries from concerned photographers have never been answered. Enquiries from the non-English press about my rejection of the award were not answered.

It was only when the international photo community took up the issue on social media and discussed it so intensively that the Times and BBC inquired, that CREO stopped being silent.

They had so many options to use this for good. They used none of them. Instead they refused to answer my questions, the questions of the press, the questions of concerned photographers. So stop saying “we were looking forward to engaging in a more in-depth discussion on this topic” – it is wrong.


December 2022: I applied with no additional info about the way of production, as SWPA allowed to use “any device”.

13 January 2023 | Announcement of the shortlist: CREO told me I was shortlisted and asked for Hi-Res file, date, history of publication which I provided.

22 February | CREO asked for the title of the work. I responded with “Boris Eldagsen, “PSEUDOMNESIA | The Electrician”, 2022”

If you follow this info, you can find out by yourself about the nature of the work. Even the title could give you a hint as it means “fake memory”.

UP TO THIS PONT THERE WAS NO INFORMATION PROVIDED THAT IT WAS AI-GENERATED. As the regulations allowed “any device” I just sent the image.

March 2 | CREO told me that I have won.

March 3 |I replied stating openly: “The links you requested earlier this year (webpage and Instagram, exhibition history) clearly show that after two decades of photography, my artistic focus has shifted more and more to exploring creative possibilities of AI generators […] Since I don’t want there to be any misunderstandings here, it is important for me to explain in this email the background of the image you have chosen in as much detail as possible. […] In Germany, I am active as […] AI expert in the “Deutscher Fotorat” to discuss the chances and risks of AI image generators. Perhaps Sony would be interested in taking up the topic for a panel discussion in this context.”

March 7 | CREO send a short reply that I could keep the award. My suggestion was not addressed.

March 14 | CREO send out the press release about the selected winners. Immediately a lot of press inquired about the nature of my work. I got an email from the CREO Press executive, stating “We have received a few media queries regarding your image, and the only information we have available about it is ‘From the series Pseudomnesia.’. Would you have any further info on this image that we would be able to share with the media please?”

It was obvious that he was not informed by his team. I send him the first statement that you can still find on my webpage, describing how the work was produced.

9 minutes later I replied “I have been having an email exchange with Karolina Hopanaite about this two weeks ago. Reassuring, that SWPA was aware that the work was produced as an experiment with AI generators, knowing that there will be am outcry amongst the photographers community. Below you will find my statement. As I have been one of the German experts that is most known for discussing the relationship between AI and photography, I also offered to participate in an open discussion of the topic, either online or before the award ceremony, if SWPA is interested in it.”

And sent the statement you find on this webpage below.

My statement was not used, instead the Press executive sent out this email to press that wanted to know if the image is AI or not: 

“Dear […], Many thanks for your inquiry. Please find below a quote from Scott Gray, Founder and CEO of the World Photography Organisation: ‘As a medium photography has always been at the forefront: constantly adapting and evolving, it has a singular ability to transform itself and push boundaries. We are interested in photography as an art form, and within the Sony World Photography Awards we have our Creative categories in the Professional and Open Competitions which welcome photographers to experiment and explore the dynamism of the medium. With technological advancements, a wider audience of creators are engaging with lens-based work and we look forward to seeing how this can expand the reach and impact of photography.’ Kind regards, […]”

In the evening I got a short reply from the CREO Press executive with a smiley and “thank you”. No explanation why they didn’t use my statement. Not responding to my suggestion to discuss the topic. They might have not expected that I have friends in the press who sent me their response.

In the following week photographers contacted me on facebook, stating that they wrote to CREO asking about the nature of my work and also did not get a response.

21 March | Third offer for an open discussion: I pressured CREO in a new email that they need to pick up the conversation and “discuss the problematics, that we are already facing and will face”. I explained again: “I have been having an email exchange with [CREO assistant] about my image two weeks ago. Reassuring, that SWPA was aware that the work was produced as an experiment with AI generators, knowing that there will be an outcry amongst the photographer’s community. And there was and is. I have been getting a lot of messages, you have been getting them. [CREO Press executive] contacted me last Tuesday, asking for more information – and then used a generic reply for the press. Why? To calm things down?”

No reply to this question.

21 March | Reply from the CREO Press executive to my third offer: “We do however have our blog on the worldphoto.org website where we publish Q&As with shortlisted & winning photographers on a regular basis – which we think would be a good platform to start the conversation and for you to discuss your creative process further. If that’s something you’d be interested in, our Managing Editor […] will get back in touch with you with questions by the end of next week, with the aim of having the article published in early April.”

21 March | My reply to CREO: “Thankyou […]! Yes, let’s do that.“

4 April | The CREO editor contacts me: “I’m putting some questions together for us to run a Q&A on our blog. I hope to send these to you over the next few days, we’ve been very busy with the overall announcement for the 13th.”

It never happened. I was waiting 22 days for these questions.

In my opinion, CREO is not interested in the fears and needs of the photo community. Why didn’t they talk to me at the ceremony after I went on stage? I stayed until the end and 30mins longer. Why didn’t they contact me during the last days? They have my contact details. They never responded to my mail I sent 2 hours after the ceremony, sending them my statement and suggesting to donate the spare prize to the Ukrainian photo festival (photo gear) in Odesa, for a good cause?

That CREO is now stating: “Additionally, we were looking forward to engaging in a more in-depth discussion on this topic and welcomed Boris’ wish for dialogue by preparing questions for a dedicated Q&A with him for our website” is nonsense.
They had so many options to use this for good. They used none of them. Instead they refused to answer my questions, the questions of the press, the questions of concerned photographers. So stop saying “we were looking forward to engaging in a more in-depth discussion on this topic” – it is wrong.

  • Somebody pointing at my image during the press preview of the SWPA exhibition at Somerset House, London, 13.4.23
  • Me pointing at the wall where my image was removed from the SWPA exhibition | Somerset House | London | 14.4.23
>>>>>>>>>>> UPDATE 14.4.23 

10 AM (CET): As photolari.com reports, my image and name have now been taken off the SWPA webpage. Hope an official statement will follow. 

5 PM (CET): I went to the SWPA exhibition that opened today at Somerset House in London. My picture disappeared as well from the show (see images above  / © Thomas Gerwers).

No official statement yet. No attempt to get in contact with me. Neither personally at the award ceremony, nor via email or phone.


REFUSAL OF THE PRIZE of the Sony World Photography Awards, Open Competition / Creative Category at the London Award ceremony:

“Thank you for selecting my image and making this a historic moment, as it is the first AI generated image to win in a prestigous international PHOTOGRAPHY competition.
How many of you knew or suspected that it was AI generated? Something about this doesn’t feel right, does it?
AI images and photography should not compete with eachother in an award like this. They are different entities. AI is not photography. Therefore I will not accept the award.

I applied as a cheeky monkey, to find out, if the comeptitions are prepared for AI images to enter. They are not.
We, the photo world, need an open discussion. A discussion about what we want to consider photography and what not. Is the umbrella of photography large enough to invite AI images to enter – or would this be a mistake?
With my refusal of the award I hope to speed up this debate.

Having been a photographer for 30 years before I turned to AI, I understand the pros and cons of this debate and will be happy to join the conversation.

If you dont know what to do with the prize, please donate it to the fotofestival in Odesa, Ukraine. I will happily provide you the contacts.

Many thanks

(Docu photo: © Petra Gerwers)

MY STATEMENT WHEN THE SELECTION OF MY IMAGE WAS ANNOUNCED BY SWPA (without them communicating it was AI-generated or properly answering press inquiries)

I am very happy that I won the creative category of Sony World Photography Awards 2023 / Open Competition / Single Image.

I have been photographing since 1989, been a photomedia artist since 2000. After two decades of photography, my artistic focus has shifted to exploring the creative possibilities of AI generators.

The work SWPA has chosen is the result of a complex interplay of prompt engineering, inpainting and outpainting that draws on my wealth of photographic knowledge. For me, working with AI image generators is a co-creation, in which I am the director. It is not about pressing a button – and done it is. It is about exploring the complexity of this process, starting with refining text prompts, then developing a complex workflow, and mixing various platforms and techniques. The more you create such a workflow and define parameters, the higher your creative part becomes.

I have been the first in Germany to teach this as a craft in open online workshops: www.promptwhispering.ai

I call my images “images”. They are synthetically produced, using “the photographic” as a visual language. They are not “photographs”.

Participating in open calls, I want to speed up the process of the Award organisers to become aware of this difference and create separate competitions for AI-generated images.

Doing public talks and being a consultant for universities, magazines, agencies, festivals, museums, and organisations, I see my role as a practitioner of knowledge transfer. As the ‘Head of Digital’ of Deutsche Fotografische Akademie, I am a member of the AI work group of Deutscher Fotorat, in which the German photo associations discuss the chances and risks of this disruptive technology at large.


THE ELECTRICIAN, from the series  PSEUDOMNESIA, courtesy of my gallery  Photo Edition Berlin. More information about the work here