Proust Text Turned Into Images by Human Photographers and AI

In 2022, Alexis Gerard and Annabelle Matter traveled to Normandy, France, to translate text by French writer Marcel Proust into photographs. They chose a 114 year old article entitled Impressions de Route en Automobile (below), widely considered to have been a prototype for the author’s massive 3,200-page masterpiece Remembrance of Things Past. They took photographs of specific landscapes and buildings and also scenes that resonated with the mental images and emotions they had personally experienced through reading Proust’s text.

They later extended the project by “feeding” the same textual descriptions that had inspired their images to an AI image generator (DALL-E 2), to see how its results would differ from their own photographs. Who did it better?

Paragraph #1 

In this paragraph, Proust describes fleeting views of “old and wobbly” traditional Normandy houses that he glimpses from his moving car. He goes into some detail about the rose bushes and trees that grow alongside them.

Alexis and Annabelle


Surprisingly DALL-E 2’s flowers are not roses, but gladiolas. The trees which feature prominently in Proust’s description are a very minor part of this image. The architectural style of the house however is fairly convincing.

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