Controversial AI-generated photo goes on sale for €20,000. Would you buy it?

Sony World Photography Open Awards 2023
The Electrician (Image credit: Boris Eldagsen, Germany, Winner, Open Competition, Creative. / Sony World Photography Awards 2023)

The controversial AI-generated photo that caused a sensation at the Sony World Photography Awards this year has been spotted on sale at this year's Paris Salon art fair.

Created by German photographer Boris Eldagsen, his image, called The Electrician, won the creative open category of the annual Sony Awards – only for him to reveal it was an AI-generated at the award ceremony itself.  

The winning artwork was put on show in Paris by Photo Edition Berlin. Perhaps due to the controversy regarding the history of the image, this artwork was put on sale for a whopping €20,000 ($21,635 / £17,405)! 

Signed and editioned as a run of 10, Photo Edition Berlin states that they were inundated with offers from buyers looking to invest in the new AI movement. This year's Paris Photo has been and gone and amongst all of the beautiful photography, we saw the introduction of a new space dedicated to digital artworks which brought attention to AI's place within the medium. 

Paris Photo is the largest international art fair dedicated to the photographic medium, and attracts photographers the world over to display their works. New books, prints, and more are displayed by the leading photographers of today, and this brings with it a number of art buyers eager to snap up a long-desired photograph or to be the first to discover the new talent. 

This year's festival saw the introduction of a new sector 'dedicated to photography in the digital age' which provided buyers a chance to purchase AI artworks, considering they were made with a couple of lines of text and a press of a button, they were not cheap! If you want to try creating one, read our guide for the best AI image generators.

The important question in regard to selling AI-generated images in the art market is that of copyright. It seems, for the most part, AI training is a bit like the Wild West with many companies training AI engines on images they do not own. More laws are being put into place to make sure creators are correctly compensated, and companies such as Adobe and Getty are creating their own databases in which to train AI - which is a step in the right direction! But there are some images that have been made prior to the laws and subsequently sold, which, to the best of my knowledge, there are no rules about. As AI becomes a staple in the art market, I imagine laws against selling as well as the production of AI imagery will be tightened in the aid of protecting the original creators.   

Before creating an AI image and especially if you attempt to sell it, make sure you are aware of the laws and implications regarding copyright. 

You can see a more in-depth look at the digital art sector of Paris Photo on its website.  

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Kalum Carter
Staff Writer

Kalum Carter is a UK-based photographer, writer, and photo editor. Kalum has been working as a freelance photographer for the best part of ten years, covering a wide range of assignments for well-known brands and publications in areas including portraiture, fashion, and documentary. 

Between commercial assignments, Kalum is currently working on a personal photography project exploring his connection to the Gower region of South Wales UK, as part of an MA in Photography from The University of West England.