Home Artificial Intelligence Chinese creators use Midjourney’s AI to generate retro urban “photography”

Chinese creators use Midjourney’s AI to generate retro urban “photography”

Chinese creators use Midjourney’s AI to generate retro urban “photography”

Zhang Haijun via Midjourney


The truth is, none of them are real. Zhang Haijun, a street photographer in Chongqing, generated these images with Midjourney, an image-making artificial-intelligence program. 

Various artists and creators are generating nostalgic photographs of China with the assistance of AI. Despite the fact that these images still get some details improper, just like the variety of fingers that humans have or what Chinese characters appear like, they’re realistic enough to trick and impress many social media followers, including me.

Retro AI artwork like Zhang’s has also caught the eye of Tong Bingxue, a collector of Chinese historical photographs. He reposted a few of them to his popular Twitter account China in Pictures last week. 

These generated photos are indeed aesthetically pleasing, Tong says. They give the impression of being sophisticated by way of standard photography metrics, like definition, sharpness, saturation, and color tone. “When people have a look at things on social media, these [attributes] are the primary things that catch the attention. The authenticity of the photo comes second,” he says. Real historical photos, alternatively, sometimes look amateur or include material imperfections.

Zhang, the creator of the AI images above, was born in Chongqing in 1992. He grew up near the Chongqing Iron and Steel Company, one in every of the oldest and largest steel factories in China, and remembers watching the employees when he was about seven years old. “Once I was little, I’d often watch them come out of the factory during their break, sit on the bottom, smoke a cigarette, and look into the space. There have been stories of their eyes,” he says.

When he turned that have into an image-generating prompt for Midjourney, he was amazed by the outcomes. “What the AI generated—the look of resilience of their eyes and the way in which they’re dressed—it looks the exact same as what I described to it,” he says.

Now, Zhang pays greater than $200 a yr for Midjourney, and uses it to generate latest retro photographs with different themes: rural weddings within the ’90s, physical laborers for hire waiting out there, and Chongqing street fashion. Every time, he writes the prompts in Chinese, uses machine translation tools to convert them to English, feeds them into Midjourney, and spends about 20 minutes tweaking them to get the best result. 

Zhang Haijun via Midjourney

Some artists working with AI are inspired by the invention of real photos. Diaspora youth within the West have been forming communities on Instagram where they crowdsource and curate historical photos so as to rebuild memories free from a Western framing. 


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