what if Baudelaire had been confronted with the images created by Midjourney?

VSharles Baudelaire loved photography. He was one of the most assiduous in the studios of portrait painters Nadar and Carjat. And he was suspicious of it. This disturbing fascination with this nascent art, “refuge of failed painters”, made him write a passage that has become famous, in his criticism of the Salon of 1859. Baudelaire takes to task those he designates as “worshippers” photography, art “industrial” par excellence, according to the poet, lending them a naive and blissful “credo”: “The industry that would give us a result identical to nature would be absolute art”, he quips. However, it is indeed a new industry which has brought to the world’s screens a new kind of so-called “artificial” images, created by equally “artificial” “intelligences”, such as Dall-E 2, Stable Diffusion or the most famous of them, Midjourney.

These images are “artificial” in that they look like photographs, without actually being one. They represent objects or scenes that do not exist in the real world, where a “natural” photograph results from the capture of a sample of the world, through a camera.

” From now oncontinues the poet of artificial paradises (them too), madness, fanaticism (…) took hold of all these new sun worshipers. » Faced with this enthusiasm, “A Vengeful God” granted “the wishes of this multitude” : (Louis) Daguerre (one of the inventors of the picture) was his messiah. » Nearly two centuries later, Midjourney became its new prophet, granting the “wishes” of Internet users, by producing images from simple requests.

“Strange Abominations” arose, continues Baudelaire. Thus appeared on the screens of the world the diverted images of figures of power: Pope Francis in a down jacket, the agony of Julian Assange, Emmanuel Macron the thinker in front of a heap of garbage, or Donald Trump under arrest… Many were the Internet users who, trapped in the illusion, have believed in their authenticity.

” Misfortune to us “

In his diatribe, Baudelaire lamented a major revolution of his time, whereby the ” Beautiful “the original object of study of art “and painters”giving way to ” TRUE “, which photography seemed to allow. We know, however, that she knows how to lie. By its nature, first, as a limited sample of space and time, taken by the subjective gaze of a photographer. Fortunately, in the best of cases, photography can “testify”, which allows it to be used daily by journalists.

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