Search results for

All search results
Best daily deals

Affiliate links on Android Authority may earn us a commission. Learn more.

In a strange twist, a real photo just won an AI photo contest

A photographer's photo of a flamingo appearing to be missing a head is actually real.

Published onJune 12, 2024

Xiaomi 14 Ultra camera sample natural aperture
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
  • A photographer submitted a real photo to an AI-generated photo contest and won two prizes.
  • As far as we know, this is the first time that’s happened.
  • The image shows a flamingo that appears to be missing its head, but it’s just the angle of the shot.

With generative AI becoming better and better at creating imagery, we’ve seen a few instances of people submitting “photos” created with AI to photography contests and taking home a prize. In response, some prestigious photography contests have created AI categories to both keep up with the times and prevent people from trying to submit AI-created works to traditional photography categories falsely.

However, today, we have a story of the opposite happening. Photographer Miles Astray submitted a photo to the AI category of the prestigious 1839 Awards. His piece — titled “F L A M I N G O N E” — ended up taking home the Bronze award in the judge’s category and winning the People’s Vote Award. You can see the image below:

Miles Astray Flamingone
Miles Astray

The only problem is that this piece is not AI-generated: it’s a real photo of a real flamingo. The angle of the photo makes it look like the bird is missing its head, but it’s real. Mr. Astray shot it in 2022 at a beach in Aruba where flamingoes roam freely. It was captured with a Nikon D750 with a 50mm prime lens at ƒ/1.8 and a 1/1600 shutter speed.

Earlier today, this photo was listed as winning both prizes on the 1839 Awards winners page. However, only moments before this article went live, the organization scrubbed this list. The Bronze winner and the People’s Vote Award winner are now two other AI-created images, which were previously relegated as “honorable mentions.” Android Authority can confirm that the page originally had “F L A M I N G O N E” as the winner in both categories. We have also seen proof of Astray’s former wins.

The jury for these awards is filled with prestigious names, including people from The New York Times, Christie’s, Getty Images, and more.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Creative Resource Collective, an organization behind the 1839 Awards, had this to say:

No one believes in the power of photography more than we do. We’ve asked Miles to work with us and give a statement for a future blog post we are going to do regarding this exact topic, with his submission, press release, and any statement he shares as a jumping-off point. As an artist, his voice will make a difference in this conversation. However, after much internal debate, we decided to disqualify his entry into the AI category in consideration of the other artists who submitted their work. Our contest categories are specifically defined to ensure fairness and clarity for all participants. Each category has distinct criteria that entrants’ images must meet. As he mentions in his press release, his submission did not meet the requirements for the AI-generated image category. We understand that was the point, but we don’t want to prevent other artists from their shot at winning in the AI category. I’m sure you see why we’ve made this decision and the reasoning behind it. We hope this will bring awareness (and a message of hope) to other photographers worried about AI.

Why did the photographer do this?

Speaking with Mr. Astray, we learned his intentions behind submitting his photo to an AI photo contest. It’s pretty much what you’d expect:

Of course, I feel bad about leading the jury astray, but I think that they are professionals who might find that this jab at AI and its ethical implications outweighs the ethical implications of deceiving the viewer, which, of course is ironic because that is what AI does. I’m glad to see that this experiment confirmed my hypothesis: there is nothing more fantastic and creative than Mother Nature herself. I don’t demonize the new technology and see its potential, but currently I see its limitations and dangers even more clearly.

Interestingly, Mr. Astray had teased the true nature of his photo on social media and his website with the following caption that, in hindsight, very much alludes to the photo being real:

We’ve all seen a flamingo, but have you ever seen a flamingone? Only an AI could make that up. Or did I just make that up?

You can check out Miles Astray’s other photography at his personal site using the link.

Got a tip? Talk to us! Email our staff at You can stay anonymous or get credit for the info, it's your choice.
You might like