The beauty of health: Blending art and AI to tell powerful human stories | IPG Health @ Cannes 2024

At the Adobe space at the Cannes Lions Festival this year, a unique conversation unfolded about the evolving intersection of art and artificial intelligence. The session, titled "Beauty of Health," brought together celebrated photographer Rankin and Adobe’s Chris Duffey, a strategist in emerging solutions. The discussion, moderated by Emily Seal, Executive Director of the Clio Health Awards, delved into how Generative AI is being integrated into creative process and the portrayal of human stories.

Rankin, known for his evocative and genuine portraits, shared his approach to photography which focuses heavily on authenticity and collaboration. "I'm a portrait photographer and I'm looking for the authenticity in human beings," he explained. “I want to open a window to things that maybe people don't understand.”

The panel also explored the role of generative AI in artistry, highlighting its shift from a tool for efficiency to a catalyst for expanding boundaries throughout the creative process. As Duffey said, “This time last year was very centered around efficiencies. And yes, that's very important to the creative and the industry, but it's now evolving to be not only about bottom line growth opportunity, but top line growth opportunity. Now, what can you do with all of that free time? You can explore more directions.”

“AI isn't just about speeding up the process, it's about opening up new realms of creative possibility.”

A demonstration of Adobe’s Firefly AI image generation tool was shared, showcasing the ability to take a single input image and transform it in to a wide range of creative variations, using Firefly’s Structure and Style reference options – helping artists to quickly iterate and refine their creative visions. "AI isn't just about speeding up the process," Duffey noted, "it's about opening up new realms of creative possibility."

Rankin illustrated this point through a recent project where his team used generative AI as a core part of the process. “We wanted to do a photo shoot specifically using AI...” Rankin said. “We wanted to show that there was a different way of using it.”

The portrait series featured an actor in various water-themed settings. This pre-visualized content – created using generative AI tools – helped shape the actual shoot, which then seamlessly integrated the AI-generated backgrounds with live photography, captured in a North London studio.

This innovative approach highlighted a novel way of merging AI with traditional photographic techniques to generate attention getting results. You must find ways to capture the viewers’ attention Rankin said, “We used to call it page stopper. But now it's a scroll stopper.”

A portrait from Rankin that features an actor in various water-themed settings.
A portrait from Rankin that features an actor in various water-themed settings.

The conversation extended to Rankin’s work in healthcare, particularly his recent collaboration with McCann Health London for the Acid Survivors Trust International. Here, Rankin's powerful portraits of acid attack survivors were used to raise awareness about the dangers of acid use in the fashion industry, culminating in a poignant lookbook titled "Tear Couture." These efforts underscore the potential of creative work to not only reflect but actively influence societal conversations and change.

Rankin's powerful portraits of acid attack survivors

As Seal concluded, “I think the important thing here is bringing up controversial topics and doing it in such a way that creates conversation. And that's the power of creativity in advertising. It’s being able to shift culture to make people comfortable talking about things that they might not otherwise be.”