Google’s Pixel 8, with its state-of-the-art AI features, is transforming the landscape of mobile photography. The promise of the AI capabilities of this phone is simple and compelling: it enables users to “do more effortlessly.” While appealing in an increasingly complex and demanding world, this promise raises essential questions about the implications of such technology on our perception of reality and authenticity.
Tech enthusiasts have been captivated by the AI-enabled photo editing of the Pixel 8. This smartphone offers a straightforward approach to all we do, capture, and create, but as Wired notes, its tariff is authenticity. The phone’s capabilities allow users to alter a photo to their wishes. Its AI software can erase an unwarranted photo-bomber and distort size, color, and placement with just a few taps. This suite of features is accessible on the Google Photos app, making it easier to tailor reality to personal preferences.
The Trade-Off of AI in Photography
However, there is a trade-off to this convenience and control. In our pursuit of perfection, it can feel like AI is asking for the very thing we shouldn’t so quickly give over: the substance of our lived realities. As Chokkattu writes, “These new additions feel like the future of mobile imaging, where we’re cutting away the things we don’t like in our images and videos, or completely changing the time of day to get the right sky. It’s amazing but also disconcerting.”
AI and the Democratization of Photography
But there is also a benefit to how AI is changing our relationship with images. Tom Ashe, chair of the digital photography program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, believes these tools further democratize photography. They allow people to craft the image they want instead of settling for what they captured in the original exposure. This evolution instills a “healthy skepticism to our idea of the photograph as a document of objective truth.”
AI and the Social Media Narcotic
As social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat gained popularity, they fostered an aesthetic of socializing based on visual presentation. Filters, FaceTune, and photo editing became a form of visual automation, altering how we present ourselves online. The aesthetics of online socializing reaffirmed racial imbalances around beauty and allowed marginalized groups to represent themselves in ways that challenged these traditional beauty standards.
The Promise of AI in Photography
The transformative potential of AI in photography is vast. It has the power to challenge how we view images and the people in them, forcing us to question our version of reality. As devices like the Pixel 8 increase the flow of manipulated images into our society, they also raise concerns about the proliferation of misinformation. However, as Derrick Conrad Murray, a professor at UC Santa Cruz, observes, manipulation and deception have been part of photography since its inception. The advent of AI merely brings this to the fore, allowing for infinite mutability of the photographic image.
In conclusion, AI suggests a challenge: Embrace distortion. Live in the mutability of photographic deception, but remain diligent. The future is a playground of constant knowing and unknowing, unraveling and remaking. As we navigate this digital landscape, we must interrogate the tools we use and the images we create, understanding their potential to empower and deceive.