Last year I joined the Cape Cod Art Center and discovered a world of talented artists. The following is the result of several interesting conversations with the group.
I have been a photographer for over 40 years, but it was only when I retired that I was able to transition from documenting school life to portraiture and fine art photography. There is a whole world of graphics software that allows you to take your original work and turn it into something else.
I had a small graphically altered photograph on the wall of the Cape Cod Center for the Arts last fall. A woman teaching an art class pointed it out and complained that it took an hour: "This guy just pushed a few buttons."
These days, if your camera (or smartphone) is your primary tool, your computer has become secondary. Since your computer and its software have a brain of their own, unlike normal photography, graphic editing has become something of a collaboration.
Artistically, we may already be on a slippery slope. At what point is the job no longer ours?
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Photographers may be sticklers, but they have apps that crop, sharpen, adjust contrast and light, adjust color, all after the shot is taken. Are there any unwanted elements in the image? With practice, you will learn to remove them. But the job is still yours.
There's an app called Gigapixel that takes a small photo, perhaps from a phone, and uses artificial intelligence to enlarge the photo to poster size. Delete and add what would be additional details. The improvements are impressive, but the image has hardly changed… it's still yours.
But there are also apps that my frustrated artist objects to, which turn your image into something colorful or surreal, depending on the degree and style you choose and the intensity you choose. The artist still controls the process, but after that it is communal.
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I mention all this because if there is to be "truth" in art, it depends more and more on who the truth is. I say this because artificial intelligence (AI) now makes it possible to "create" art without a camera or brush. The new programs allow you to simply write an application, in words. He then sifts through millions of art and real-life images to create an ingenious amalgamation never seen before. Some of them are just beautiful. Colorful Van Gogh style treatment and desired cover: Taj Mahal in "Starry Night" style. Do you want to see brush strokes? Just ask them.
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Perhaps we are entering an era where very few people have mastered the actual techniques and the rest simply order art from a menu.
Perhaps there is nothing here but an updated version of what Lorenzo de' Medici would have done if he had told the artist: “I want a portrait of my wife, but naked, except for some long pearls. dark red in her hair… and surrounded by Egyptian servants with fans and snakes in the temple of the pharaohs. But then the artist still stops or falls into the domain of technique.
Art has always been a marriage of vision and skill. Now all you probably have to do is request this material and sign below if you wish. If there is still truth in art, whose is it now? Is it ours just because we wanted it?
Enter "Deepfake" technology. Now the AI can digest hours of footage, extract the subject's voice and image, and create moving images of people talking and doing things they've never done before. Deepfake technology will soon be available to the general public – "proof" everything. In the hands of a QAnon enthusiast, Nancy Pelosi would likely sit on Satan's lap and buy Tom Hanks a bottle of baby blood. In other words, Trump kisses Putin's ass in black and white photos. Just ask about this program.
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A picture can be worth a thousand words, but what if the words lie? If we think that the truth is difficult to find today, even if we find it, soon it will be impossible to find it or know that it is true.
As we like to say, "seeing is believing". Our children may or may not believe it in the near future. How ironic that the technology they can't get enough of can make them obsolete. God will help us.
Lawrence Brown is a columnist for the Cape Cod Times. Email him at [email protected].
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This article originally appeared in the Cape Cod Times: Opinion: Computers and artificial intelligence are creating art at a risky price.