What Is Photographic Purpose in the Age of AI?

The age of AI is here, and like it or not, the barn door is open and the horse is out. With the ability to quickly generate believable images with minimal input, what does it mean to be a photographer in 2023? What is photographic purpose? This worthwhile video essay discusses the subject.

Coming to you from Will Goodlet, this insightful video discusses the idea of photographic purpose and the future of the craft in the age of AI. While the professional side of photography will certainly have to adapt to the quickly evolving industry, on the amateur side, no matter how good computers get, there will always be the joy and fulfillment of the creative process. When there is such a paradigm shift, it is often helpful to turn away from external validation and to turn your focus inward in order to recenter yourself in relation to your craft. We all picked up a camera for the first time because we fell in love with the creative process, and no machine can ever take that away from us, so return to that thought if you find yourself questioning purpose and photography. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Goodlet. 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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The purpose of using images is to attract eyeballs, so to me AI-generated imagery is an attempt to cut out the costs associated with people otherwise doing the work. Personally I don't find artificial images very compelling. I'd much prefer looking at something real that has an actual story behind it.

I always read about AI being an upcoming huge problem specifically for advertising commercial photographers, but I am not so sure it is so. Because we create what clients need and want, reality is by default not the main goal. So we can embrace AI creatively when photography in other fields is looking at AI in a much more fundamental way. I only see AI as a threat with copyrights. The rest is not a problem so far because clients goal, project time frame and budget are always what defines the best tools needed to achieve growth and existential sustainability. AI as illustration guarantees none of it more than photography does.