Everyone’s a Gauguin — Apple Crowns “Prisma” Photo Art App as Best App of the Year

Wasn’t even aware of Prisma, but nice addition to my photo app collection. Apple published its annual Best of 2016 charts for the App Store, crowning photo editing app Prisma as the iPhone App of the Year. Released in June 2016, Prisma is designed to turn photographs into works of art using a range of different filters. But those are not just like any other filters:

Prisma transforms photos into artworks using the styles of famous artists: Munk, Picasso as well as world famous ornaments and patterns. A unique combination of neural networks and artificial intelligence helps to turn photographs into art.

In other words: a kind of intelligent photo effects app taps into deep learning for an edgy art connection. Or in yet other words: an app from Russian developers that turns prosaic smartphone shots into art.

The Verge recently went as far as to proclaim “you can now turn Prisma snaps into expensive art prints.”

And because your photos deserve a home better than your smartphone, why not just give them to CanvasPop, which will turn your Prisma photos or just about any other pictures you like into works of art — on canvas.

For more on Prisma photo app visit www.prisma-ai.com.

And because these artsy algorithms are quite impressive, here’s a series of random Prisma renditions, with the original first, an iPhone 7 shot straight out of camera:

  • right_writes

    I think I prefer the concept of taking a million photo’s and identifying the 1 or 2 images that are personally acceptable for framing.

  • Modesty certainly has its merits, yet this is a whole different aspect of “photography.”

  • Hi Daniel,

    you may know this little story: the cleaning personal at the Documenta in Hannover found something on the flor and asked “is this art or may I throw it away?”.

    “……turn photographs into art.”
    “…..turns prosaic smartphone shots into art.”
    “…..any other pictures you like into works of art”

    it would be an endless discussion, what art can be, but taking any picture, use a peace of software and make “art” out of it with one click???

    Sorry, but at Prisma the use of the word art seems to be inflationary. If someone likes a print on his wall of his own photographs it will be great for him, but does it become art?

    More than 10 years ago I used a filter from LucisArt very much. After so much effort to turn my photographs into something special (like Bromoil Prints, dye it with ugly chemical…) in the analog times I was exited with these results. (examples below)

    But after a while these filters just start to be an effect and get boring and now I am back to pure B/W and love it.




  • Now that’s not too shabby Dierk! Looks like you were ahead of time.

    Now and then, as an occasional exploit of creativity, using such algorithmic techniques is certainly not a crime.

  • If I can give my two cents, there is no creativity at all: simply choose a filter and it’s applied to the photo. With no control over it. I’m not agains extreme post production, but I prefer to “gain” the results with some kind of effort. (I’ve tried Prisma the first days of its release, but the lack of options/controls left me bored).

  • Love the second one Dierk!

  • For the occasional message to family and friends with an artsy fartsy Prisma rendition attached, I like it! There’s some amazing algorithmic power in there, but sure it leaves the “artist” without control — or out of control?

    Again, it’s a whole different playing field, with its own merits, but agreed has little if anything to do with more serious photography.

  • In my opinion it can be also seen as a sign of times: we are flooded by hundreds of images every day, and we pay only few seconds of attention to them. Why bothering doing some “art” wasting hours on Photoshop when we can achieve similar results with one click?

  • Just imagine, I finally can paint! Never was able to draw something nice, now so easy. Makes serious artists kind of redundant. A tragedy really. More victims of the freedom digitalization and automation bring along…

  • It’s not a tragedy, just keep our feet on the ground and don’t pretend to be an artist, or even a painter, because of the result. I would not call this “painting”, but I saw people doing it.
    I imagine myself replying to a guest in my appartment asking: nice painting, that on the wall! And me: actually it’s not a painting, it was a photo, I used an app to turn it into this.
    Oh.. (End of the short story. If it was one of the Dierk photos or something really painted, or something else with some more effort from the author, there would be a more interesting conversation on it, but personally I would not be proud of it)

  • Wade Marks

    I use Prisma with some of my iPhone photos and it’s great. There are 2 ways to find value in a photo/art piece, etc:

    1) There is the value of creation…this is what Prisma denies…the value of applying talent and time to create something…the value of it not being easy.

    2) There is the value of the final output…here Prisma satisfies. The output is very unique; the vast majority who use it would never take the time and effort to try to create the art in the old fashioned, manual way. It would simply be left as a standard photo. I’ve shared the Prisma app with family and friends and they are blown away by the results. They don’t care about the process used to arrive at the final output; they see that the final results are dramatic and pleasing. Again, if you were not going to paint something like it anyway, then Prisma opens horizons to you, instead of narrowing them.

    In short using an app like Prisma to post process your photos is for most like using the iPhone itself to take a photo: it’s easy, quick, and it will trigger more creativity and expression than otherwise. Say what you will about smartphone photography, but because of it more people take more pictures than ever before. Many take pictures who would not do so otherwise.

    For those who like the more purist approach that method is always available.

    I do agree that this opens up a brave new world of interesting questions. For instance, what happens if/ when people make prints of these altered iPhone photos and sell them as works of art at a crafts show, for instance?

    Do they have less value because one did not have to work as hard or long on them? Would buyers know or care? If a buyer sees a work of art and likes it, agrees the price if fair, is that all that matters? How many times do we buy something and ask how long it took to make it? We usually just buy what we like.

    And if we are going to make time/effort a criteria, what happens when we come upon a skilled artist, doing things the old fashioned way, but one who works faster than another? Do we pay that person less?

    The advent of machinery that started with the industrial revolution makes all sorts of things easier; we do not let that subtract from the legitimacy of the output or final product.

    Again, some very interesting questions.

  • Beautiful.

    As you say, “they don’t care about the process.”

    Yet… is that something… “bad”?

    Or is the threshold now even higher for creative people?

    Are there limits to human creativity? What limits?

    Prisma churns out in seconds what takes hours for humans with skills.

    In the end, who cares? Sorry, but that’s the fatalism of our times. Slow food, slow art, slow everything yes, but as you say Wade Marks, are we willing to pay for it?

    It’s part of the somewhat utterly devastating democratization brought upon us by the digital era. Many values are destroyed, others created. We can either embrace change or fight it. Doesn’t make Prisma art less real.

  • Addendum — looks like this very clever video makes use of all the discussed: