A Swedish artist has recently been crowned the winner of the inaugural AI Art Awards for her image titled ‘Twin Sisters in Love’.

Swedish photographer Annika Nordenskiöld's winning image Twin Sisters in Love. ANNIKA NORDENSKIÖLD:BALLARAT INTERNATIONAL FOTO BIENNALE
Swedish photographer Annika Nordenskiöld’s winning image Twin Sisters in Love; Photo: ANNIKA NORDENSKIÖLD/BALLARAT INTERNATIONAL FOTO BIENNALE

AI photography has become a point of controversy over the past few years. The hyper-realistic computer-generated images created using text prompts can be convincing and difficult to distinguish from real photography.

One photographer, Boris Eldgasen, even won the creative category at the Sony World Photo Awards last year with a computer-generated image. Although he rejected the award, this did open up a larger conversation about how AI and photography can coexist. Eldgasen was featured as a judge in the world’s first AI photography awards.

“A photographer goes out into the world and shoots what they see by chance in a certain place, but nowadays, a ‘promptographer’ can stay in a darkened room and create a computer-generated image,” said Eldagsen. “Seeing is no longer believing it is real.”

The Ballarat International Foto Biennale in Australia announced Annika Nordenskiöld as the inaugural winner of the Prompted Peculiar – International AI Prize, which also includes a $2,000 prize.

For the first time, artists and photographers were encouraged to use AI to generate imaginative images. Awards such as this which feature the new category titled “promptography” allow the AI medium to be separated from traditional photography.

Hanna Silver Robot Intermarriage Promptography AI Art Awards
Hanna Silver Robot Intermarriage ‘Promptography ‘AI Art Awards; Photo: HANNA SILVER/BALLARAT INTERNATIONAL FOTO BIENNALE

After more than 100 submissions were entered, Nordenskiöld’s Twin Sisters in Love was declared the winner. The artist, Nordenskiöld, resides in Sweden and is known for her versatile use of painting, sculpture, and photography (or image generation) to create her pieces.

“I understand the fear of A.I. and find it somewhat healthy,” Nordenskiöld said when accepting the prize on Sunday. “But I see it more like a colleague I am working with.”

The winning image features an old-fashioned black-and-white portrait of two sisters tenderly cuddling with an octopus, blending surrealism and classic documentary-style photography. The image is rendered in sepia tones and is set against an out-of-focus background.

“None of these places, people, or creatures exist in the physical realm,” Nordenskiöld stated. “Many people say my pictures make them uncomfortable … When I explain that A.I. creates them as a kind of collage… many laugh, others are distressed and find them disgusting.”

The Prompted Peculiar – International AI Prize also features 20 exceptional shortlisted pieces selected by the jury and is currently on display at the Ballarat International Foto Biennale.

There was also a People’s Choice Prize category which also saw nearly 1,000 votes cast. Victorian artist Hanna Silver earned the highest number of votes for her work titled Robot Intermarriage, Melbourne 1895, 2023.

Speaking about her submission, Nordenskiöld stated, “It is the dream of a dreamer to bring home some proof of the journey; to become an oneironaut, a person who dreams worlds – a lucid dreamer, collecting notes and images, even objects, from the world within.”