Artist uses artificial intelligence to make 'photos' of 1980s Glasgow

Photographer Siobhan Walker used AI to reimagine working-class life in a series of realistic images.

An artist has created ‘artificial intelligence’ images to bring bygone Glasgow back to life.

Photographer Siobhán Walker, from London, shared pictures of working-class people living in the city during the 1980s, capturing the imagination of thousands online.

The 39-year-old has been experimenting with AI art since September and decided to recreate gritty, realistic photographs of fictional people and places.

Siobhan's favourite image of the series.

The images demonstrate how eerily sophisticated the technology has become – depicting sullen schoolboys standing outside a block of flats, young clubbers beaming on the dancefloor and an elderly woman staring wistfully through her window.

Siobhán told STV News: “Even though I didn’t grow up in Glasgow, I’ve been there a few times in recent years and it’s a place I’m quite fond of.

“I also love the 1980s, so I wanted to create something from that time there and, judging by a few natives, I seem to have done it justice.

Images were created using Midjourney (Siobhán Walker)

“The feedback has very positive and quite overwhelming, which is something I didn’t expect.”

One commenter said that the photos were “amazing” and bore “striking similarities” to the work of French photojournalist Raymond Depardon, who captured the city during the 1980s.

Punk sitting on bench (Siobhán Walker)

He added: “Based on what I remember and saw of 1980s Glasgow, they’re very accurate.”

Another fan, Anton Gardinski, commented: “Astonishing work, Siobhán. Several of these images are completely plausible, and some would definitely fool me into believing they were ‘the real deal’ if they hadn’t been posted as AI art. You’ve really captured the Glaswegian vibe.”

Siobhán said AI is

Siobhán used an AI programme called Midjourney on server Discord. She typed prompts to describe what she wanted it to create in a process named ‘text to image’.

The machine-learning algorithm – a so-called sentient digi-poacher named Fraud Monet – then creates images from textual descriptions fed by users.

Elderly woman gazing through window  (Siobhán Walker)

While highly convincing at first glance, looking closely there are some details that are a little off – disproportionately large eyes, a bouffant styled a little too high or a toothy smile so broad it begins to overtake the face.

Another significant flaw in the system is AI’s challenges in rendering realistic hands, as demonstrated in a picture of seven-fingered old men in a pub.

Flaws in the system: Foreign language sign in background   (Siobhán Walker)

Siobhán said: “It’s weird, but it doesn’t seem to know how to count yet. Very occasionally it will render five fingers.

“It’s still learning about numbers and counting things like clocks, Roman numerals. Before, it couldn’t do eyes properly so it seems it’s working its way round the human body. It’s learning fast.”

Siobhán said AI is a

The internet has been swept up in a viral new AI art craze which has seen thousands conjure up stylised self-portraits by uploading selfies on easy-to-use apps including Lensa AI.

VisitScotland even reimagined its UNESCO Heritage Trail locations using AI-generated art.

One commenter said the photos bear similarities to the work of Raymond Depardon. (Siobhán Walker)

The trend has called into question a number of ethical issues including privacy, copyright and crediting as well as data bias.

Critics claim the datasets are regularly trained on the work of non-compensated artists.

Sky-high quiff and a spare thumb give away the game. (Siobhán Walker)

Many programmes’ privacy policies also allow companies the right to use and reproduce those images in perpetuity and royalty free.

Siobhán said she understood fears regarding AI and how it could impact the future of art.

AI still struggles to render realistic hands. (Siobhán Walker)

“There have been people saying it’s scary and they don’t like where this is going because it looks so realistic,” she said.

“You can recreate historic events that didn’t actually happen. It’s getting even better.

Mannequin-like clubbers in this AI image. (Siobhán Walker)

“I think some people are frightened of where AI may take us in the future and what it means for the past.

“I personally see it as a good thing, but I can understand people’s concerns about how it could possibly be used to create false stories or things that never happened throughout history.

Artist explains AI struggles to count when creating hands and clocks. (Siobhán Walker)

“I’ve got my friends into it and it’s helped people. People are going through a lot of stress and hardship at the moment and this is a form of escapism; transforming your thoughts and imagination into art.”

She added: “I see it as an additional tool for artists. It’s fun.”

Uncanny swally? Woman has otherworldly look about her in this image. (Siobhán Walker)
Posing up a storm. (Siobhán Walker)
A Glasgow street. (Siobhán Walker)
Siobhan Walker created AI images of 1980s Glasgow. (Siobhán Walker)
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