Student Wins Several International Competitions With Stolen Photos

Student Wins Several International Competitions With Stolen Photos

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.

Fstoppers Stolen Photos Mark Solis Post from Gregory John Smith

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.
Fstoppers-Stolen-Photos-Mark-Solis-Post-from-Gregory-John-Smith-2

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.

[Via Rappler, Via Reddit]

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106 Comments

Previous comments
micha8583's picture

Another way to verify the winner is to ask for "sibling images". Hardly no snapshot gets taken allone, without several others in the same environment on the same day with the same or similar subject.

Uploading upon request a screenshot of the whole shoot or the whole day might put the casual thief hard at ease.

However a solution might turn out to be, the current practice of proof of ownership is like handing you the win of the NCY Marathon without making sure that you even showed up at the starting line,

Pheelyp Aytona's picture

Very well said, micha8583.

Noel Salazar's picture

University of *the Philippines ^^

gerard pacana's picture

I'm a Filipino and I do photography as a hobby the only thing I could say is : he has an eye on how to win such photography competitions but maybe his only problem is, he don't have any camera to use or maybe just a plain thief after all :)

Larry Gaurano's picture

Gerard, seriously... do you have to open with that? "I'm a Filipino... his problem is he doesn't have a camera?" I mean, seriously??? That just makes Filipinos sound worse. I'm an American Filipino, and I've seen this all too often.

No, not Filipinos cheating. That happens as often as other individuals from other ethnic groups that cheat. No, what I'm furious about is that when a Filipino does wrong doing, there's always other Filipinos that will excuse or justify it.

There's no justification for this. None whatsoever. That's like someone saying, well the reason I lied about being CEO for Google on my resume is because Google wouldn't hire me as their CEO. SERIOUSLY?!?!

As a Filipino, I believe that Solis' penalty should be much much more severe, to the tune of being expelled from school. Is that harsh? Nope! He did this countless times, with major organizations. Needless to say, if he's willing to cheat on this, what else has he cheated on? Yea, everything he's done in his "youth", should be fair game to be under suspicion.

Trish Castro's picture

^ I agree! This news has gone worldwide. He has brought disgrace to his university and should be punished accordingly. Expel the guy. He deserves it.

Perhaps he should just stick to writing. He's good at making up bullsh*t stories anyway.

Lorri Adams's picture

[As a Filipino, I believe that Solis' penalty should be much much more
severe, to the tune of being expelled from school. Is that harsh? Nope!
He did this countless times, with major organizations. Needless to say,
if he's willing to cheat on this, what else has he cheated on? Yea,
everything he's done in his "youth", should be fair game to be under
suspicion.]
- Agreed! Especially if he is a law student, although . . . wait a minute . . . nah, joking, he should be expelled, end of story.

gerard pacana's picture

What I mean on this is how can he submit such entries without grabbing others work if he has a camera and it doesn't mean that it makes Filipino worst...

I just stated that I am a Filipino because I am proud being a one...

epiquestions's picture

Having an eye for great photos does not automatically make you a good photographer. It's like you can appreciate the beauty of a painting but it does not mean that you can paint. Having no camera is NOT an excuse to steal from others and claim it as your own so that you can join and win a contest.

gerard pacana's picture

You're right on that having no camera is not an excuse. My point is maybe that is one of the main reason why he joined the contest using others work, and I did not say that he is a good photographer. How can he be a good photographer with out a camera?hehehehehe

Erick's picture

Spot on Gerard! and by the way I'm Filipino too!:)

mark pogi's picture

He has an Eye, Seriously??? Maybe he has an eye to cheat to win.

His actions were too embarrassing not only to the UP Community, but to the entire Photographer's Society as well.

gerard pacana's picture

In my own opinion he really has an eye, how can he won all those entry if he don't have one or such taste...It doesn't mean that I agree on grabbing other's work.....

Let's just say: A cheater with a good taste in grabbing those photos.....

Erick's picture

He should be severely punished seriously

Ricky Tang's picture

Just to be clear with your thought and disregard your nationality, you are saying that it is okay to use other photographer's work and claim it as your own and not have a problem to do it, right? So, then how about asking people around to use YOUR photos for free, since they have an eye for photos that can win competitions and because they don't own cameras. Boy, you've got a very sick logic to start with to share this kind of thought.

gerard pacana's picture

Is that a discrimination about me (excluding my nationality) or you just don't understand what my thought is all about....
Please read it again.... I just said he has an eye to win such competitions because most of his entries where selected, Right? The bad thing is it doesn't belong to him that is why I said: maybe he is a plain thief after all....

Vin Cruz's picture

He's not discriminating. He's just saying that nationality should just be disregarded since it doesn't matter in this situation. Cheating is wrong whether you are a Filipino or some other nationality.

Yes he might have an eye for picking up photos that would likely win competitions, however the sad thing is, why didn't he use that talent to capture and conceptualize his own photos?

Why did he have to resort to stealing other people's work?

gerard pacana's picture

Do you think it's okay for you to me to say that you've very sick logic to start with to share that kind of thought.
For me it is not....that is why i had said that he is like discriminating me personally. I know you don't like Mark Solis for what he did but for me it is like a shout out against him not admiring him..

epiquestions's picture

"Guy's its a freedom of speech, right? What i mean on this is why would
he grab others peoples creation if he can make on his own, but if he
don't have a camera how can he."

this statement made your arguments confusing if not wrong.

gerard pacana's picture

Did you read LARRY GAURANO'S comment? That statement is for him, basically I'm new on this thing and still don't know where to put my reply. That is why I make it into one, later on I figured it out that I should put it on each person's name...My fault. My mistake on that...

The Freedom of speech thing is I just want to express what I felt against Solis.... Got it?

gerard pacana's picture

Guy's its a freedom of speech, right? What i mean on this is why would he grab others peoples creation if he can make on his own, but if he don't have a camera how can he, and in my statement i said " maybe he is just a plain thief after all" .
It doesn't mean that I agree on grabbing others work....

And in my own opinion he really has an eye on such photography competitions because most of his entries won, right? but the sad thing is it doesn't belong to him.

I'm proud to be a Filipino and I don't generalize all Filipinos are like him. Where just human made to make mistakes and We learn from it, and you're so stupid enough if you don't.

Thief is a thief no matter what may happen...

Ricky Tang's picture

"Freedom of speech" without the benefit of logic is nonsense, if he has no camera then he has no business to enter a photo contest by stealing someone else's work. You've done too much damage on yourself trying to defend someone who has already been proven guilty of stealing.

gerard pacana's picture

I'm not defending him,......if I am I should have not said that he is a thief.
Maybe you hate him so much because his entries won and you love to join those competitions but none of those pictures where chosen...but the sad thing his entries are from others work or maybe one o f you're work...hahahaha

The logic here is about Mark Solis how bad he is, what I've said is just my own opinion and that is the Freedom of Speech....Touche'

epiquestions's picture

No, you said that the freedom of speech is " why would he grab others peoples creation if he can make on his own, but if he don't have a camera how can he." Don't contradict your own arguments, don't try to justify it by saying he could have made it on his own if he only had a camera. He could have saved, or borrowed but seeing as he has already done it a couple of times before, his excuses and your arguments are moot.

gerard pacana's picture

My freedom of speech statements refers to I can say what ever I want to say as my first posting said, but some people don't like it the way I did...
Maybe they mean that I am defending Solis or I'm with him..

caira's picture

what Gerard means:

he has good taste in selecting photos, but he is a thief.
that's all there is to it
in other countries, we have trouble expressing ourselves in english because of our grammar, so sorry :)

gerard pacana's picture

Thank you Caira!!
You are right on that. It's all about my grammar :)

Hammad Iqbal's picture

That's scary as I'm just getting back to my favorite passion after a decade... I hope i wont have to spend more time worrying about protecting my work instead of actually creating new one.

Jon Snow's picture

Good on him, when will these idiots make their photos difficult for others to steal by resizing or watermarking their images correctly.

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