In the Age of AI, the Human Eye still counts

Madeline Dudley-Yates is discovering new ways to see the world. In her role as curator at Berlin based tech company EyeEm, she discovers new talent out of the vast pool of photographers. EyeEm is a global community of photographers, using AI technologies to categorize and sell the best images to brands around the world. The art of her work is to find the new and unseen in the vast ocean of images.

What does your work with photography at EyeEm entail, in your own words?

At EyeEm, I look through thousands of images and photographer profiles everyday to hunt out the best creatives. We get thousands of new users joining every week so there is always fresh talent to be found.


What is the most exciting aspect of your job and working with images?

The best thing is discovering new talent that is fresh to the platform. I get very excited when I find an amazing profile by a photographer that doesn’t have a large following. We have a lot of options for showcasing people’s work and helping them sell photos — interviewing them, exhibiting their work, featuring them in our quarterly magazine, connecting them to brands… People are always very flattered and often surprised to be featured, they don’t think that someone would like their work so much. Most of the time, people take up photography just as a hobby.

Madeline during the Annual EyeEm Photography Award Show


What kind of relationship do you have with photography and visual art?

I have always been in love with photography, since I was young. My parents supported me to study Photographic Art at university because I was so passionate about it, even though they really wanted me to be a dentist or doctor.

I made a living as a photographer in Manchester, UK, before coming to Berlin to work as a curator. Moving away from the camera was a natural step, as I realised that I was interested in seeing the variety of different creators out there, rather than the work that I was creating. I still create in my own time but when I see an incredible project by a photographer that I know I could not reproduce myself, that is very inspiring and I want to show people this amazing work.


As a woman, how do you feel about today’s landscape for artists? Do you feel that it’s evolving, shifting, changing in any interesting ways, than say, 5 or 10 years ago? If so, please explain how.

The rise of social media and online apps for creativity is certainly shifting things and starting to level out the playing field. It enables everyone to have a voice, and creates more transparency. There’s still a way to go before female artists attain truly equal representation, but current trends in visibility are promising – I’m interested to see where it will lead.


Can you describe the most recent memory you have of an image that took your breath away? Please describe the image as well.

Photo by Linas Vaitonis, Eyeem

I really love this image by EyeEm contributor Linas Vaitonis. He captures a midnight scene, a road cutting through a snow covered forest, and in the distance there is a mysterious figure. Everything in the scene is exposed as the viewer would expect to see, but the figure is like a bright glitch in the centre of the image, and appears like something not from this world. His work is always surprising me in new ways. He brings a bit of magic to each scene captured.


What are two aspects of your creative identity that you value most?

With my curations at EyeEm, I like to choose images that, when sitting together, create a new narrative… a conversation between the frames.

I like to push the boundaries of the perspectives of reality. I prefer dreamlike to realistic and cinematic to everyday. My favourite movie director is Michel Gondry, he makes his movies feel dreamlike, without using cgi, just using analogue techniques and pushing the boundaries of what is considered normal to shift the perspective to something a little extraordinary. I always try to pull my photographs away from immediate reality, even if it is just to make them appear a little cinematic. With my personal artwork, I manipulate scenes entirely to create a meditative ornament that I hope the viewer will use to reflect on their own feelings towards nature, or to gain a new appreciation of its beauty. My raw materials include elements of nature, and the final result is something like a mandala.

Artwork by Madeline Dudley-Yates


What is one thing you’re extremely passionate about? Do you find that it has a role in your day to day?

Human connection to the environment has always been an obsession of mine. Whenever I have the opportunity to put together curations on this subject, I am at my most creative.


What are some of your greatest sources for inspiration? Why are they sources of inspiration?

Honestly, at the moment it’s the EyeEm community, since this is the work that I look at every day. Now and again I catch a glimpse of someone’s idea that sets my brain on a creative path to an idea for a photograph of my own. The idea never has a direct link with the photograph that I am looking at, it will be an idea born indirectly from a particular prop or technical style that they have used, or the reawakening of a forgotten memory found within the image.

People inspire me a lot, I love taking portraits. Typically, a close friend becomes a muse and I get inspired to capture them whenever I am with them. I love capturing people in real moments, using different techniques and tricks to give the moment a new narrative or become something more ethereal.


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