Benjamin Lowy, who has been experimenting with AI image generator Midjourney in addition to his work as a traditional photojournalist, says there’s also a fine line when it comes to using these tools ethically, particularly in journalism. In a digital media landscape where deep fakes are on the rise and disinformation is rampant, the idea that you can make hyper-realistic images from scratch in seconds is “tremendously dangerous,” Lowy says.
“For me, it's important to have a distinct set of ethics about the images I create with my camera for journalism versus what I'm trying to do with Midjourney,” he says. When he posts AI-generated work on his Instagram, for instance, he ensures the images aren’t “too realistic.” He wants it to be obvious that the work is art — not journalism. As for the threat to his job, he thinks that’s less of an immediate concern. “Just like painting wasn't destroyed by photography, I don't think photography is going to be destroyed by AI,” he says. “But we have to counterbalance it and think seriously about its repercussions.”
AI art as a tool for work and for art
There are valid concerns about how the technology may impact some artists’ careers, especially as they present cost savings for companies who no longer need to send an entire photography crew to a far-flung locale or hire a designer for marketing collateral.
But according to Chernev, creatives who have used Text 2 Dream report it actually reduces their workload by more than 50%. Artists use the platform for everything from creating marketing materials to designing characters for video games, and Chernev notes it’s particularly useful in generating thousands of images that are conceptually similar but visually distinct.
“From just one character, you can easily create all the characters for the entire game,” he explains.
That said, learning the intricacies of AI image generation is a time investment — something Schultz, who teaches the subject at New York University (NYU), tries to convey to his students. “It's about figuring out how to fit [AI] into your existing practice to make things more efficient, or to say something you're already saying in a different way,” he says.
As for how the technology will evolve, experts in the field think that as more platforms emerge, the technology will only continue to get easier to use.
While it can take a while to nail the right look and feel of an image today, AI technology improves rapidly, thanks largely to machine learning algorithms that automatically adapt and improve as more people use them. Schultz, for example, is excited for how things like resolution may improve, as well as how artists might begin using AI generators for more complex multimedia like video.
Chernev agrees that the technology will keep evolving — and his is a rosy view of the future of the medium.
“I truly believe that AI-generated content will not only help us with our jobs as artists and designers, but it will give us the opportunity to create completely new forms of art,” he says.