HomeTechnologyArtificial intelligencethese shamans don't exist, but one architect still captures their portraits

these shamans don’t exist, but one architect still captures their portraits

Imaginary Shamans by Dimitar Karanikolov

These shamans do not heal anyone in real life, but through artificial intelligence and Half way through the journeya chat powered text-to-image generator, architect and travel photographer Dimitar Karanikolov has given them living bodies and faces through these realistic portraits for his ‘Imaginary Shamans’ series. The architect’s Valhalla emerges as he meanders through the visuals of the shamans and healers and their culture.

His explorations culminate in a photographic anthology in which a sense of eerieness and fatigue floats in the images. From the folds that line the shamans’ faces to the traditional tattoos that ink their faces, the details in each image appear crystal clear, leaving viewers to question whether they were generated by artificial intelligence or shot by a professional photographer.


images courtesy of Dimitar Karanikolov

Artificial intelligence in digital media

Digital media has disrupted the art world (more on that here) as creatives turn to and invest their time in the hyper-realistic powers of artificial intelligence. From artists using image generators for streetwear like Nike and intergalactic fashion campaigns spinning graffiti in products of architecture, the catalog of the magnitude of AI goes on and on and on and on, encouraging some twisted manipulations in the creative industries.

Dimitar Karanikolov plays with supply and AI and explores the traditions of shamans around the world, types words related to the masterminds behind the medicinal power of non-hospital treatments, and generates mystical portraits that can evoke awe at the realism they exude or concern for the future of photography.

dimitar karanikolov imaginary shamans ai
these images were taken via Midjourney

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Generate images from words

Internet citizens have gathered on Karanikolov’s social media platforms, especially Instagram where he introduced the series, to share their thoughts on AI’s breakthrough and its overlaps with skill-based photography. One commentator admires the portraits, calling them stunning, but they fear that approving the use of artificial intelligence in a field where mastery is required could change the essence of the art for life.

Another questions whether Karanikolov used pictures as a reference for the shamans. ‘Just a description in words,’ the architect writes on the after. The descriptions he gave the generator may have been different, but the results underline both the beauty that artificial intelligence can generate and the underlying fear it can generate.

dimitar karanikolov imaginary shamans ai
Karanikolov typed descriptions to generate these portraits

dimitar karanikolov imaginary shamans ai
Imaginary shamans capture the healers in different cultures

dimitar karanikolov imaginary shamans ai
the images are very detailed

dimitar karanikolov imaginary shamans ai
the series culminates in close-up shots

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