An ad consultant used AI to create a fashion magazine but found it nearly impossible to avoid 'too perfect' images
- Copy, which calls itself the world's first AI fashion magazine, was created by Carl-Axel Wahlström.
- While creating the issue, Wahlström discovered AI can have a stereotypical vision of women.
The images within the inaugural issue of Copy magazine are eerily perfect.
Models stare at the viewer with sharp, rosy cheekbones and soft, tousled hair. Their blemish-free skin glows where the light hits and their lips are either pursed in a sultry pout or opened to reveal a radiant smile of straight teeth.
But none of these models are real people — every photo, and even the text, is AI-generated. The brainchild of a Swedish advertising consultant, Copy was meant to blur the lines between reality and fantasy.
Its stereotypical depiction of beauty was on purpose, creator Carl-Axel Wahlström told Insider.
"You can argue that all the women in the pictures are very stereotyped and perfect, but that was also a concept to show everybody that this is the image of beauty that we have been fed with through 20, 30, 40 years back," he said.
"I was struggling a lot with it in the beginning," he continued. "Why is everything that I prompt, even though I write the opposite, it just becomes too perfect and too beautiful and too stereotyped? But I think that it was an important thing to also show that this is how we have seen beauty."
The inaugural issue launched in August. Wahlström said he thought of the idea for the magazine in March, when the AI software company Midjourney released a new version of its text-to-image technology with photorealism capabilities. "I was blown away and in love with the whole technology," he said.
While each image was initially AI-generated from text prompts, Wahlström said he and his team retouched every picture, a process that could take 10 hours per photo.
"When it comes to fashion photography in general, you take a picture of someone and you make it more perfect than it actually was," he said. "In AI prompting and image making, we try to take the perfect AI image and deconstruct it so that it's not that perfect."
The photographs are dreamlike in their blurred edges, crisp details, and saturated colors. The editorials follow women as Formula One drivers, brokers on Wall Street, and models at fashion week.
"I wanted to enhance the role of women in society in a way," Wahlström said. "Then there is a little bit of criticism towards the fashion industry and to how we are portraying women."
AI technology is a reflection of the images and information we give it, he said. So it made sense that when asked to generate photos of women, the software would throw back a culmination of all the stereotypes we've collected on the internet since 1983.
"AI doesn't come up with anything new, it just summarizes the whole bulk of images that we have uploaded to the internet," he said.
Similarly, Wahlström found it difficult to define fashion of the last two decades without the AI referring back to styles from previous decades like the '80s and '90s.
"We have been looping these decades over and over and over again, and that made the AI very confused," he said. "It says a lot about us, and I think this is really a warning flag to stop repeating, stop looking back, and try to move forward now."
The fashion and advertising industries have been slow to embrace AI photography. As a consultant to major apparel brands like H&M and Gant, Wahlström said he's talked with companies that are interested, but hesitant to use it.
"Advertisers are a little bit afraid of what their audience will say," he said. "For many brands, it's very important to be on the right side. No one really knows how AI will be seen. Is this a threat to humanity? As many people are saying. Is it fair to combine a real product that should symbolize quality with pictures that are not real?"
The future of AI can even worry Wahlström at times. "Of course, I get a little bit stressed by the whole technology, and that it's moving so fast," he said. But he believes there are also many ways the industry could benefit from AI photography.
"It will democratize who actually can make a really great campaign," he said. "I think that people will always take pictures. I think the AI technology is more just to be seen as another type of camera, not a replacement for the camera."
Copy is available to purchase online. Wahlström plans to release the magazine twice a year and said the next issue could come out between the end of this year and the beginning of 2024.
"The process of making these magazines is so much fun and I'm learning so much," he said. "It really feels like you're sort of pioneering something new."
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