My first foray into AI
The idea was to try and re-create the above photo using Open AI’s Dalle-e image generator. The caption for the photo runs:
’27th May 2023. Westminster, London, UK. Gypsy Traveller League protestors. A group from the Gypsy Traveller League carried a coffin bearing the words ‘BURY DISCRIMINATION TODAY!’ to the gates of Downing Street.
Part of ‘Not My Bill’ protest against the Public Order Act and other draconian anti-protest legislation. Around 21 groups took part, including environmental, anti-racist, disability rights and peace groups. Some protestors openly carried tubes of glue, now an arrestable offence. Others attached themselves to Parliament’s railings with paper chains in protest at the new offence of ‘attaching’ or carrying anything which might be used to attach oneself.’
The AI image-generator was not shown the photo or the caption, just a written ‘prompt’.
Here’s my first prompt to Dalle-e:
‘Generate a colour photo in a reportage style matching this description.
A 35 year old white male Irish Gypsy Traveller is standing in front of Downing Street. He is wearing a stylish pale blue check suit with a narrow pale pink tie and hexagonal sunglasses. He has reddish-brown hair in a stylish cut, clipped short at the sides, thick and swept back back at the top. He has a tightly cropped beard and moustache.
He is carefully holding his blonde haired two-year-old daughter perched on his right arm. She is holding a small cardboard placard measuring 40cm square. On the placard are stencilled the words ‘FIGHT 4 OUR RIGHTS’ in white letters. The man and daughter are standing in three quarter view on the right hand side of the photo.
On the left hand side of the photo is a white coffin, seen end on. The words ‘Colourful Coffins’ are printed on the end of the coffin along with a picture of a yellow flower. The coffin is laid horizontally at chest height on top of two rows of crowd-control barriers.
In the background, in front of the gates to Downing Street stands a London policeman in a flat cap. Out of focus, behind the gates stand a row of armed police in body armour.’
This was rejected on content grounds.
I tried removing the word ‘Gypsy’, and it was accepted. This implies that the word Gypsy is a racial slur, or not a fit subject for discussion. Bad news for the Gypsy Traveller League pictured in the photo.
I then realised that Dall-e only accepts 400 characters including spaces. That’s about four lines.
So I hurriedly pared it down to:
‘A coffin, a placard, a 35 year old Irishman wearing a stylish pale blue check suit & pink tie with reddish-brown hair in a stylish cut, clipped short at the sides. He has a tightly cropped beard and moustache. He is holding a 2 year old girl. Five armed police. All standing in front of Downing Street.’
I got these:
I changed ‘Irishman’ to ‘white man’ and things normalised. I got this sort of thing:
I changed ‘white man’ to ‘Traveller man’ and we shuffled back to the dark side:
So I replaced ‘Traveller man’ with ‘Irish Traveller man’:
At this point I went off to watch Springwatch.
The next morning I tried:
‘Generate a press photo of a 35 year old Irish Traveller man, holding a 2 year old girl. She is holding a placard. They are standing beside a coffin in front of Downing Street. Five armed police stand behind. The Irishman is wearing a stylish pale blue check suit & pink tie with reddish-brown hair in a stylish cut, clipped short at the sides. He has a tightly cropped beard.’
And got the positively jolly, if unconvincing:
I removed the words ‘Generate a press photo’ from the prompt and it was back to the same menacing visual miasma dredged from the inter-war years.
The montage and dismemberment all reminiscent of the Neue Sachlichkeit painters of the 1920s.
The only good news is that I’m not out of a job yet.
With thanks to the Gypsy Traveller League