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A photographer without a camera?

by Editor Wicher Bos
Edited and published by Yvette Depaepe, the 11th of November 2022


Sometimes you encounter ideas that make you think...

Recently we had a celebration of 100 years of the Dutch Photographic Association, there I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Erik Kessels, a Dutch artist, designer and curator with a great interest in vernacular photography. His projects are certainly photographic, yet in a remarkable way. He rarely takes a photo himself. He builds his art by applying photos of others, family albums or collecting images from all kinds of sources by bringing them together he creates a new reality, a new view, a collage of what was and now is... In essence he recycles existing photos and so creates an entirely new photographic experience; intriguing and so wonderful. Check it out on his website:


'Collage Antichí' by in Performance


And as life sometimes does, a few days later I saw a YouTube video with AI examples and the week thereafter I got a Shutterstock enquiry about the use of AI images. Shutterstock was asking: "Some predict that artificial intelligence tools and technologies will transform the creative content industry. Do you think the industry will transform for the better or for the worse?”

All this provoked a thought… is Erik Kessels showing us a revolutionary new way forward in photography?  The way he works with images seems comparable to photographers who use AI to (partly) generate images (like sky replacement) that are not really their images and not photographic in the traditional way…

My next thought was: Camera’s and mobiles becoming more advanced every year with even more help to take a perfect photo slowly pushing technique further back… and allowing more focus on composing and creating the photo you want… and by doing so blending traditional and futuristic AI.

Is creating collages (a piece of art made by sticking various different materials such as photographs on to a backing) comparable to a (partly) AI generated images or digital photo composites? Where do we start calling someone a photographer, or when does some one stop being one…

The latest versions of Adobe’s Photoshop are heading in the same direction e.g. by providing neural filters. Allowing another step in manipulating digital photos. Like most of us abandoned chemical processing and moved over to digital capture which in turn led to digital post-processing options beyond imagination at the time of crossover. Now with AI, where will we go? Replacing a sky, colouring a black and white, moving a person, changing a season, all possible and easy already and way beyond touching up an original capture. Then I didn’t even mention software like Dall-E that generates marvellous images based on just a sentence with some keywords.

Well, I am a technology optimist… and are not really driven by formal boundaries, I am interested in what artist can do creatively. Still, it feels as boundaries have moved in photography yet again. It seems a shift further away from how images technically are made - towards what images are made for, creatively…


Finally, somewhere I read: “A photographer is a person with a camera… An artist can be anyone…”
I am not so certain about that any more, what do you think?

Just for viewing pleasure I will add a few images based on keywords: collage, composite. Hope you enjoy these master pieces.




'Allegory with melon (Triptych)' by Delphine Devos in Creative edit



'The nest' by Victoria Ivanova in Conceptual



'Lady' by Brig Barkow in Creative edit



'Inner child' by Aryana Golchin in Creative edit



'Through time' by Silvia Simonato in Creative edit



'Time Gate' by Sulaiman Almawash in Creative edit



'Reflexes and reflections' by Vito Guarino in Portrait



'Confused I' by Aryana Golchin in Creative edit



'Respect...!' by Huib Limberg in Creative edit



'Emty inside' by Roland Helerand in Conceptual



'Blue.' by Natalia in Creative edit



n/t by Hadi Malijani in Creative edit



'The begining' by Julia in Still life



'Tris di coppia' by Antonio Grambone in Creative edit


Thank you for the good article. I'm also surprised by ai's machine learning, and I've seen highly compatible programs such as 3D rendering, which is no different from reality. It makes me wonder whether people will claim that the creative subject is human after all, or whether humans will embrace the creativity created by ai. But when I eat apples, I think I will choose delicious apples that were grown by humans or by ai.
Thx, indeed we will have to wait and see how it lands …
Given the rapid advances in AI technology, an interesting topic. As long as it is used rather than abused, it is up to the photographer how far he uses it. gr. Piet Haaksma
No doubt about that…
AI is a bit tricky, I personally prefer if the artist has a significant role in creating the image rather than directing the software to create something but then what is photography these days? It is so difficult to be original, many photos are the endless repetition of the same. I have been curating photos on this site for a a few months now and sometimes I just want to scream no more of the same! :) I think photography as creative art will have to evolve and accept new ways of creating images while photography as a document of reality will need to find new subjects, new angles and strive to be much more original than the sea of the very similar photos we see today.
Wonderful thoughts Margaret thanks…
Poor Margaret... I can feel your pain (more big landscape, more birds on a branch, more..." does not mean the images are not awesome as the quality on 1X is outstanding primarily due to you work in curating them. Thanks you for the good work you are doing.
I read your article carefully and feel a bit of sadness. I don't know where we are going but definitely some will stick to the "originals", like the landscapes, and more and more will follow the trend of creative ideas with the developing technology. No one can stop it! Appreciate your writing and the selected works!
Great images and thought-provoking ideas, nice article.
Very interesting article and amazing choice of photos to go with it, Wicher. I am familiar with AI such as Midjourney for creating visual compositions and I find it fascinating - the dialogue between words and image, the astonishing way a phrase becomes image. However photography and creatively edited photography are another continent for the time being, evolving in parallel with other new forms of art yet not intersecting.
Thanks Ludmila… I am not very familiar with that type of AI no hands on experience yet… but I intrigued by where it will lead us…
Fabulous article Wicher. Things are certainly changing but like Yvette says I really hope that real creatively edited photography shines through.
Agreed and thanks!
Thanks for sharing my humble opinion, dear Colin!
Splendid article !! .
Excellent article and food for thoughts, dear Wicher. Nothing against AI as long as it isn't considered as real 'photography' and has specific sites and places to share. Therefore, I hope 1x will stay a wonderful place to admire real and honest photography as well as creatively edited photography.
Thanks Yvette and yes I couldn’t agree more about this wonderful space in the universe we call