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No body (2023)

This is my latest photographic work. (Photographic?). Working on the subject of portraiture for over 25 years and having witnessed the transition from analog to digital capture, it is impossible to remain indifferent to the new ways of creating images, now using AI (Midjourney Inc.'s Artificial Intelligence). In this work, I bring together a series of portraits of people who do not exist and have never existed. They were generated by a machine based on an idea of mine expressed in words (the 'prompt'), which an artificial intelligence machine translates into images.


Are these images photographs? As much as they may resemble them, they are not. They are certainly images, but how they will be classified in the future remains to be seen. Perhaps they will be called "photoprompts"? In any case, they certainly fulfill the expectations of a portrait, and like in all visual arts, there must also be meaning in these images, communication with the viewer, interaction, etc. In other words, a series of parameters that will determine the quality or lack thereof of these images.


AI is still in its early stages, but it has made a big entrance! We can still see a hand with six fingers here or there, or encounter other visual incongruities that create a sense of strangeness for those who contemplate them, almost alien details that 'the machine' has not yet been able to resolve. But even that will be interesting to preserve as evidence of this beginning. However, if this is 'the beginning,' it won't be difficult to imagine its potential (generative or destructive) in ten years' time.


But will this way of creating images ever be considered a form of artistic expression? Initially, it will certainly be looked at askance by a large part, if not the majority, of the artistic community. But is this new way of generating images really so different from the early photographs? Didn't the painters, draftsmen, and illustrators of that time look at the new camera, a machine for creating instant images, with equal disdain? And surely they would have categorically rejected the notion that this innovative technique could ever have any artistic value! (Let us not forget that color photography only achieved artistic status in the late 1970s - when the MoMA of New York decided do exhibit William Eggleston's color photographs in 1976 - up until then it was only attributed to black and white images!).

It is also important to highlight that during the second half of the 19th century, photography was essencially seen as a 'prompt' for other arts suchs as painting, illustration or sculpture, and not as an artistic object itself! And this word 'prompt' is not used by me innocently, but the truth is that it is the most appropriate term for how photograhy was perceived by the majority of people who contemplated it. We can therefore easily extrapolate from this that the skepticism with which AI-generated images are viewed today may, in the near or not-so-distant future, end up having their righful place.


Is it more artistically significant to press a button but aim at 'the real,' than to write some words and wait for another machine to generate (this time) 'unreal' images? And what is reality?


Although it may seem so, I am not advocating for this new way of generating images. I am simply raising questions to which I myself find it difficult to answer. But it seems to me that these images will never be valid in the artistic realm until a renowned visual artist uses them or really good works start to emerge.

August 2023

Translated from portuguese by ChatGPT.

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