Maurice Blackburn makes injustice of offshore detention visible with Exhibit A-i via Howatson+Co
With restricted access for journalists and camera equipment, there is limited evidence of daily life in Australia’s inhumane offshore detention centres. To change that social justice law firm Maurice Blackburn, in partnership with Howatson+Company has released EXHIBIT A-i: The Refugee Account.
More than 300 hours of interviews were conducted with survivors of offshore detention in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, documenting the atrocities they faced.
Together with AI technicians, the survivors then generated the first ever visual evidence of their experiences. From the colour of the tents to the subjects’ expressions, every detail was made as accurate as possible.
The evidence, comprising of 32 statements and over 130 images, has been released to the public via the website www.exhibitai.com.au
The images and statements have also been compiled into a book, and displayed at a powerful exhibition held in the Immigration Museum in Melbourne, created by installation artist James Dive (Scoundrel).
The evidence has been further shared with the public through OOH and social, while the images have been uploaded to editorial site Shutterstock to sit alongside photojournalism.
Says Jennifer Kanis, Maurice Blackburn principal lawyer, who heads the firm’s social justice practice: “These witness statements and images shine a light on a dark chapter of Australian history. They bear witness to the unimaginable inhumanity experienced by the women, men and children incarcerated over many years.
“Along with our clients, it’s our hope that this collection of witness statements and the associated AI images serve as a permanent record and an urgent case for change to Australians and our government.
Says Mridula Amin, three-time Walkley photojournalism award winner, who was consulted throughout the project: “For a journalist wanting to report on Nauru it’s so challenging – you are effectively barred from going there. I see this project as being supplementary to journalism, and it has opened an exciting door into new ways of visual storytelling, especially when real photography isn’t possible.
“When watching the images being created, it was incredible to see the level of detail and care taken, and the multiple prompts required to produce an as accurate depiction of the witness statements as possible, including working with the witnesses themselves.
“This project is one of the first applications of AI I have seen with an ethical purpose at its heart, which to me is really exciting.“
Saman (not his real name) was in immigration detention for more than four years – including nine months offshore on Manus Island. His witness statement testifies to the appalling living conditions on Manus, such as squalid toilet and shower facilities, as well as multiple incidents of physical and verbal abuse.
“By taking part in this project, I am hoping that I can shed some light on the lives of myself and so many other men, women and children inside those detention centres.
“I hope our stories will open people’s eyes to the painful legacy of offshore detention, and I urge the government to show greater humanity when dealing with people seeking asylum.”
Says Gavin Chimes, executive creative director at Howatson+Company: “It was a humbling and harrowing experience to work one-on-one with survivors of offshore detention. Nearly a year in the making, we took the utmost care to ensure their experiences were accurately depicted, with some images taking weeks to complete.
“On behalf of Howatson+Company, we thank Maurice Blackburn and more importantly their clients, whose stories can now be told for the first time, and in a new way. We hope Exhibit A-i contributes to genuine hope for change on what has been a dark and horrific time in Australian history.”
Read the stories and examine the evidence at www.exhibitai.com.au.
CEO+Founder: Chris Howatson
Managing Director: Renee Hyde
Executive Creative Director: Gavin Chimes
Head of Production: Holly Alexander
Copywriter: Zoe Finkelstein
Art Director: Raff Gandrabur
Creative: Madeleine Semit
Creative: Brandon Nee
Design Lead: Reece Lawson
Design Lead: Ellena Mills
Senior Experience Designer: Chloe Schumacher
Chief Strategy Officer: Dom Hickey
Strategy Director: Sam Butcher
Client Partner: Ollie Wearne
Business Director: Madde King
Business Manager: India Clarke
Head of PR: Ben Handberg
Senior Business Director (PR): Melinda Durston
Business Manager (PR): Millie Clout
Business Executive (PR): Bella Hayes
Senior Editor: King Yong
Studio Lead: Simon Merrifield
Printing: Carbon 8
Director: Peter Musarra
Account Manager: Daniel Hall
Activation & Exhibition: Scoundrel Projects
EP: Adrian Shapiro
Director: James Dive
Producer: Matt Roberts, Giordi Caputo
Music & Sound: Heckler Sound
Composer: Johnny Green
Sound Designer: Dave Robertson
Executive Producer: Bonnie Law
Content & Photography: Remy Brand
Website Build: Deloitte Digital
oh here come the ‘real briefs’
Cracking idea, at least the work has really deep research into the stories of Nauru etc (which are horrific) and have then used A.I for a real purpose to put faces to stories where our lovely Government suppress those stories…. (I like the AI Kit Kat work, but felt pretty gimmicky). Also putting this in front of Parliament yesterday was awesome.. if this can stop people being lock away, against their will, hidden offshore… hats off to them..
Howatson is the new Thinkerbell
This is nothing like Thinkerbell work
Keeping bookbinders in business
This is beautiful for awareness but what is it going to create change?
It feels like something that was worth doing. But boy oh boy is it convoluted and confusing.
Finally someone using Ai to spark real change. Impressive and confronting work.
A real idea, using AI for a real reason, that’s not total waste of time.
Brilliant work. Hopefully this sheds light to the countless injustices that are glazed over in this country
Think of the amount of money that will be spent on award entries for this. Just give that to a refugee charity.
One of the most compelling use cases for AI we’ve seen to date. Great idea. Craft is impressive also.
Now THIS is how you use AI. I’m well jealous. Important, impactful, and brilliantly executed
Now regretting we had a break whilst using AI.
Great work, well done.
Incredibly moving and sad. Amazing work.
Best use of AI I’ve seen from our industry to date. Well done all involved.
If nothing changes as a result of it
What is the action being taken to fix this problem?
Or are we just talking about it?
This is such important work. Brilliantly executed.
Genuinely thoughtful, provocative, and appropriate use of AI. Nice work.
This is a political issue. The only people that have the power to fix this are the Australian Government. You want them to act, you need to make them bend to the pressure of public opinion, you want to influence public opinion, you need to make people have an opinion by tapping into their belief systems.
Will this fix it? Probably not, not. Does it push the needle in the right way? Sure it does.
Stop being so negative and realise that the right direction is just that.
The money you spent on this should have been spent on something that will actually help.
The ‘idea’ isn’t what matters.
It’s an important subject and it looks, on the surface at least, very well done. The only problem (if I understand it correctly) is all those pictures are A. I. generated which seems very much at odds with it being ‘proof’ of what happened. You can think of them as ‘illustrations’ perhaps. But photographs have a different weight, and meaning in this context – an account of what ‘really’ happened. Just seems like this fact undermines the whole project.
It’s great work. But like rejected ales, I just hope people outside of advertising see it.
It’s fantastic. But the flip side is that it could be seen as falsified evidence – a dramatised account at best.
IE. AI images would never be admissible in court.
There isn’t a client logo anywhere?
I’ve personally used the street poster one and the book repetitive flat lay before
Yeah, plaster the logo all over it, that’ll get more sales! Dinosaur thinking
The reason the MB paid for this is because, 1 it’s maybe something that people there care about, 2 it aligns them to a cause that other people care about
Typical CB ghosts – ‘who’s the client’, ‘not real work’, ‘money should have been put into the cause’ etc etc
Work I’m jealous of and that others should be proud of. If it generates a groundswell for action, job done.
those books are printed at the short run book printer we all know and love.
For the people praising ‘the best use of AI so far’, did you think of how problematic it is to fabricate photo-real ‘evidence’ of events for political purposes? Sure it’s labelled as AI but at a glance (let’s face it most people glance at our work), these present as photographs. But cool, hope you win an ad trophy or something.
This isn’t evidence or proof. It’s no different than a good illustrator sketching what they describe. Yes it’s visually more confronting but that almost makes it more fictitious. Beautifully crafted none the less. As a judge this falls flat without any measurable impact, so I hope it either gathers a shitload of PR or parliament take notice. Bold work for such a young team. Keep it up.
We’ll see at the Effies
On this project is exceptional.
This blog is exhausting. This work is excellent. Wish I worked on it.
Really nice, but … not much ‘Maurice Blackburn’ coming through in this work. It’s mainly all H+Co.
Just completely and utterly fatigued by Cause-vertising? These are all noble causes but we’ve been relentlessly bombarded with guilt trips since 2017. That’s six years of austerity in what used to be a fun industry. I’ve got nothing left to give at this point.
‘‘Together with AI technicians and photojournalists survivors generate the first visual evidence of their experiences.’’
Photos. They’re called photos. You found photos, drew on them and made a website.
I thought I was going crazy missing the point as to why the press release kept banging on about AI. Heck it even has ‘ai’ in the URL. After navigating that clunky-ass website and watching the case study multiple times, turns out no. AI had no role to play in this.
You realise media and photographers are banned from detention centres right? The photos don’t exist. That’s why they made the AI images.
I wish I had the confidence to be as boldly wrong as you. Either you can’t read, or you don’t understand how AI image generation works. Good lord indeed.
Maurice Blackburn is already very closely aligned with the Labor Party. If they wanted to send them a message they could literally bring it up in conversation during their next lunch date.
Is this the same agency that did Left Handed Mango Chutney?
A commenter upstairs said “If it doesn’t create change, it’s a waste of time.” Is it? Contributing to a groundswell is a worthwhile activity. Ideally this work motivates legislation, but if it switches on just a few new hearts for now, it’s a success.
My only hope is that these 300 hours of interviews weren’t conducted by ad creatives and we’re in the hands of skilled professionals with both pre, during and post processes in play in dealing with trauma. Asking someone to relive their trauma needs more delicate human care and empathy than this industry is cut out for.
I hope this is made with genuine intent, not just another trophy in the cabinet and an exercise in creating a case study using the latest AI tech to position the agency.
What a compliment to craft that you thought these were real photos.
You don’t get to choose when to use the truth with a subject like this.
It’s either the truth or it isn’t.
In this case it isn’t.
And if the images aren’t the truth why should I believe the stories are true?
What proof do you the stories are true apart from one person’s account and images that we created by Ai?
The race to the d&ad podium is more important than having a nuanced industry conversation about our role and moral responsibility as content creators in generating false and sharable images (that will outlive and outgrow the context of this campaign). Journalism exists to show factual accounts that don’t leave any room for imagination, yet ideas like this obliterate this ideal and push us further into a visual hellscape of misinformation, regardless of the ‘intention’. I hope there are judges on the award panels who can see beyond the razzle and dazzle of this beautifully crafted work and case study and instead challenge this dangerously clumsy dive into a future where we no longer know what is real and what is not.
but the instant you enter this idea into Award shows it becomes exploitative.
What a powerful exhibition and what a shameful Indictment of us here in Australia and the policies that seek to punish people fleeing persecution and discrimination and injustice. Thank you Maurice Blackburn for doing this and finding an ethical way to lay bare the truth of this horrific injustice.
People who don’t care about the issue won’t care about this, so what’s the point?