Scam Competition Uses Names of Photographers as 'Judges' Without Permission

Scam Competition Uses Names of Photographers as 'Judges' Without Permission

Are you sure you are entering photography competitions that are legitimate? We've found one that doesn't seem so and we contacted some of the "judges" who turned out to be unaware of it.

"International Photographer of the Year 2017" contest sounds big. It sounds legitimate when you see that the judges are real working photographers. The fee is reasonable. What could have gone wrong? According to the majority of the "judges," this competition used their names without their consent. The contest ended, and the organizers even elected a winner, but the supposed "judges" didn't even know about it.

IPOTY - International Photographer of the Year 2017 listing

We have contacted Jessica Auer and Naomi Harris, who were listed in the "jury," and they told us their story. The so-called "judges" have sent messages to each other asking the other party if they were aware of this competition and if they were a legitimate part of it. All 11 of the photographers confirmed with us they didn't even know about the contest. They have since sent a collective email to the organizers asking for an explanation. More than two weeks after that they still don't have an answer.

It is clear that selecting a winner in this competition was not accomplished in an honest manner. Someone got money from the participants, used a fake list of photographers as judges, and chose a supposed winner.

We were also informed that one of the 2017 "judges" was indeed judging the 2015 IPOTY competition. They didn't assume their name would be used for profit several years after that. They did not receive any compensation back in 2015, and there hasn't been any account of how the money has been spent.

We were told that the contest's media partners and even some of the winners made an attempt to contact the IPOTY, but they did not receive any answers yet. Recently, the competition deleted its Facebook page, the announcement for their 2018 competition, and the page with the current list of judges. We tried to contact the organizers, but have yet to receive a response. This sounds like a big scandal in the photography community and raises lots of questions for the legitimacy of any other competition out there.

Log in or register to post comments

19 Comments

Crazy.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Wondering if this would change the competition-side of the industry.

Jen Photographs's picture

Probably not -- there's good money to be made running competitions. It'd take a huge scandal with a well-known organization like Sony's World Photography for things to change.

michael buehrle's picture

aren't most comps run that way ? looking at winners i would think they were.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Winners are suppsoed to be elected by the judges based on their subjective criteria for beauty. There's nothing wrong with a contest that has tasteless, but legitimate judges, who choose a tasteless picture as a winner. The problem lies (pun inteded) in the lack of transparency such as in the contest mentioned in the article.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Yeah, we had quite a few of these scams here 5-10+ years ago.

Should have used better name judges.
Ansel Adams
Edward Weston
Lewis Hine

A lot of old famous guys and gals they could use.

As my magazines seem to be stuffed with competition announcements and that ALL of them want entry fees, it has become clear to me that this is the primary source of revenue for print media.

As for purely web based competitions the same seems to apply.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

There's nothing wrong about entry fees. In this case they pretend they were having a jury of 14 photographers who are supposed to take a piece of the pie (get some money from the entry fees), but they weren't, and they didn't even know they were taking part of this competition.

The competition would be deemed honest and legit if they said: I am John Smith and I organize a competition and I'm the only judge. The entry fee is $10.

Paul Ojuara's picture

Agreed. In the case I'm talking about below I didn't even choose to participate - they simply stole my picture, as if I had chosen to enter their "competition".

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Yes, that is an unfortunate case, but I would not stress that so much. They are trying to make themselves legitimate by having nice pictures as if they had real participants. For example if you see a contest without any entries, you may not paraticipate. It's a psycological thing.

The smartest thing is to keep your photos as low resolution as possible but enough for the viewers to enjoy them. You can't do anything in such cases unless you try to sue them, but is it worth it?

Paul Ojuara's picture

Recently I had one of my Instagram images “selected” by a user called "macrophotoawards_com" (instagram has taken it down already). It's supposed to be a contest of the “best macro shots in the world”. They “selected” my picture and reposted it in their feed, obviously without my permission. It was not even a macro shot: it was a close-up of AN OWL! I requested them to remove my post, what they ignored. Fortunately, IG removed their scam account, but if you’re curious about it, the website (macrophotoawards com) is still online (with my owl picture there). I did not researched about their “reward program", but something tells me that people have to spend money to get that great honor.

Andrzej Muzaj's picture

You know, that's the matter which, for me, is quite hazy - which photography competitions / contests are worth taking part in / legit? Personally, I have a problem with separating those from the scams / money phishing. Does anyone has an idea?

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

It's the same as finding if a store is a scam or it's legitimate. The usual way to find this out is references and feedback.

Andrzej Muzaj's picture

Thanks for your feedback, Tihomir. BTW, can you recommend some photo contests, that you find particularly good (or important) for photographers, who want to start showing their work? On the international level, of course. Local ones are always easier to find when you live there. ;)

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

See viewbug.com. There are lots of contests there (both free and paid) and it seems to be a reputable website.

Andrea Frapporti's picture

Same thing for the Fine Art Photography Awards (FAPA), almost certainly managed by the same people (or person): I was one of the participants to this year's edition but requested a refund and withdrew from the contest after I contacted two of the judges and both were unaware. They changed the website and removed the names of any judge after I wrote to them to ask for explanations (which, of course, they never gave).

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Thanks for the information. People need to be aware of that.

Andrea Frapporti's picture

I agree. I tried to spread the word as much as I could...