Emmanuel Macron fleeing tear gas in a demonstration against pension reform, Donald Trump in handcuffs, Pope Francis strolling in an XXL white down jacket… These fake photographs, impressive in their realism, have circulated on Twitter in recent days and have sometimes caused confusion. The images were actually created from scratch by the artificial intelligence tool Midjourney.
► What is it?
Midjourney is a software capable, from a huge database constantly fed by user requests, to generate an infinity of images. The tool released its first version in July 2022. Less than a year later, it is on its fifth.
► How does it work?
The software is free and open to everyone, but can only be accessed through the Discord messaging platform. Then just write a descriptive sentence to create the image of your choice. For example, for the fake photograph of the pope: “show me Pope Francis in a very thick white down jacket”. It is then possible to specify if you prefer it to be more or less realistic, made in the manner of an artist, etc.
However, the software has its limits: it must have enough stock images of the public figure requested. After the fake photographs of Donald Trump in handcuffs, Midjourney banned the word “arrested” from the requests.
► By whom is it used?
Midjourney is mainly used via social networks. But the software has also been exploited by artists. In August 2022, a work generated by the tool won a Colorado State Fair fine art competition.
Artist Jason Allen entered an Art competition with AI-generated artwork and won the first prize at State Fair Art Contest…
— Physital (@physitalgallery) September 14, 2022
The juries and other artists participating in the competition were unaware that the work had been created by Midjourney, and have since reviewed the terms of the competition. “Art is dead, it’s over. Artificial intelligence won, humans lost,” said winner Jason Allen.
Also in the United States, the San Francisco ballet caused debate by using Midjourney for its campaign to promote The Nutcracker last December.
Finally, the software has been exploited by several media. In June 2022, the English weekly The Economist created its cover thanks to Midjourney. In Italy, the daily Corriere della Serra published a comic strip created by a writer with the software.
► What are the reactions?
In January 2023, several artists collectively filed a complaint against Midjourney as well as two other artificial intelligence software formed using billions of images collected from the Internet. In particular, they want to be able to accept or refuse that their works be used by a model and ask for a “license” system.