Viral Instagram photographer has a confession: His photos are AI-generated

raising / Jos Avery uses Midjourney, an AI image synthesis model, to create images that he retouches and posts on Instagram as “photos.”

With over 26,000 followers and growing, Jos Avery’s Instagram account has a trick up its sleeve. Although it appears to show strange pictures of people, they are not really people. Avery has been posting AI-generated photos for the past few months, and while many fans have praised his apparently masterful photography skills, he’s nervous to tell the truth.

“[My Instagram account] has blown up to almost 12K followers since October, more than I expected,” Avery wrote when he first reached out to Ars Technica in January. “Because that’s where I post AI-generated, human-human portraits. Probably 95%+ of followers don’t realize. I want to be clean.”

Avery emphasizes that even though his images aren’t actual photographs (except for two, he says), they still require a lot of artistry and retouching on his part to pass as photorealistic. To do this, Avery uses Midjourney, an AI-powered image synthesis tool. He then combines and retouches the best images using Photoshop.

With Midjourney, anyone can pay a subscription fee for the privilege of creating art from text-based descriptions, called “prompts.” The creators of Midjourney taught the AI ​​model how to synthesize images by showing it millions of examples of art from other artists. It can create beautiful photorealistic images that can fool some people into thinking they are real photos, especially if retouched later.

Initially an AI skeptic, Avery became a convert to the new art form. Such work has attracted much controversy in the art world, partly because of the ethical issues surrounding scrapping man-made artwork without permission. But thanks to the knowledge of the art built into the model, some of the most skilled AI-augmented practitioners are able to visualize more clearly than if a person were working alone.

“I am honestly conflicted,” said Avery when he approached Ars to tell his story. “My original intention was to trick people into showing AI and then write an article about it. But now it has become an artistic outlet. My views have changed.”

Painted in a digital corner

Shortly after Avery’s Instagram feed launched in October, positive comments about her fake photos started pouring in. “All I can say is: Your art is somehow unique, very unique, precious too; cams,” wrote one commenter four weeks ago. “Putting novel highlights in contemporary photography IMHO! Your work is a great joy to the mind and soul.”

Until recently, when asked, Avery was vague about how he created the images or told people that his works were actual photographs, even going so far as to describe what kind of camera he used to make it (“a Nikon D810 with a 24 -70mm lens”). But guilt began to build his popularity.

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