Mark Joseph Solis, a student attending the University of Philippines, won a $1000 prize and round trip tickets to Chile and Brazil for his winning photo in the "Smiles for the World" competition. However, the photo is not his, he stole it right off Flickr. Further investigation has revealed that Solis has won numerous competitions over the last 3 years using other photos he never took, but rather stole from others online.
In addition to submitting the photo Solis came up with a story, city, even name for the boy in the photo. Of course it was all made up.
Here is Solis accepting the money and roundtrip tickets during an award ceremony with the stolen photo being displayed proudly behind him.
The competition took place on September 18th and the owner of the photo, Gregory John Smith, discovered the stolen photo after being tipped off by "emails from all over the world." He called it out in the comments of the news story covering the contest.
Smith's photo which Solis claimed to be his own can be seen here on Flickr.
After being caught Solis has been quick to apologize coming out publicly and even sending a letter today to Smith. But this is not his first time doing it. In fact, he used the same photo to win another contest, United Nations International Year of Water Photo Contest as you can see here on their website announcement (note the owner of the photo at the bottom). Here's another example of a photo he submitted to a contest in 2008, yet again stolen straight from Flickr. And again.
Solis sent a letter to Smith today to apologize for using the stolen photo to win the contest.
It is sickening to see how often Solis has stolen photos from others to submit them to contests. The ones highlighted above are just the ones that have been discovered. Makes you wonder how many other contests are out there that have entries from "photographers" that have been stolen? In fact, just a month ago Fstoppers shared the story of how a stolen photo won the Samsung Live in The Moment Photo Contest. Every time I read stories like this it frustrates me to think that people are actually ok with themselves when they steal someones work and present it as their own. I tried to reach out to Solis for any comment but his Twitter and Facebook page have been taken down.