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.

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]

Trevor Dayley's picture

Trevor Dayley ( was named as one of the Top 100 Wedding Photographers in the US in 2014 by Brandsmash. His award-winning wedding photos have been published in numerous places including Grace Ormonde. He and his wife have been married for 15 years and together they have six kids.

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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?

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...

"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.

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'

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.

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..

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 :)

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

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.

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

Watermarking is, and will always be, a disgrace to photography. It looks silly, takes focus from the picture and makes you seem like an amateur.
My colleges and i have a normal procedure of sending a bill to every media stealing pictures. That pretty much keeps people from stealing.
And again, if you do post pictures, keep them of social medias if you want them safe. Put em on a website, and remove the "safe image" ability. A screenshot picture ain't gonna impress anybody.

Overuse of a logo on websites is pretty tacky I'll admit, and I agree they distract from the images, but if I'm handing over a low res for a client's Facebook page, it's going to have my logo on it. People are going to know who the photographer was and where they can see more of my work.

Marketing isn't amateurish. In fact I'd say the opposite is true. Those who don't market themselves well seem less professional in most people's eyes.

You sound like a politician that blames a rape victim for not just going ahead and turning their vagina off.

Way to blame the victim.
"I couldn't help but rob that house; they left their door unlocked!"

Trusting other people to act ethically does not make you an idiot.

True. All it means is you judge others by your own standards, if you act ethically, you tend to expect the same of others.

The apology is meaningless and only a response to his getting caught.

if i was him, lol..I'd burry myself or maybe hide in the jungle, mountains, anywhere away from civilization

Cheaters, thieves, and liars will always exist. The question is, who forgot to tell the contest judges about Google Image Search?

People, people. Don't judge him harshly. In the end, his conscience got the best of him and he came clean... albeit, he was caught as a thief.

He came clean because he was caught. He was apologetic because he was caught and probably want to avoid legal actions for what he did. He has already done it a lot of times already. If this was the first time maybe you could let it slide.

The photo he stole in 2008 is from my Flickr account. I have contacted The Papworth Trust and am awaiting their response.

The original photo can be seen here:

Did you notice on the Papworth site that they lay claim to copyright of all the photos?????

They must be thieves too.

What a dirty dog.

I bet you he didn't write that apology either, what a low life.

He won first place for:

1st Papworth Trust International Photo Competition (Man - in - wheelchair from flickr)
2nd Vinyl 2010 Sustainable Thinking Platform Multimedia Competition (3 plagiarized photos from flickr)
2011 OPAPP Say Peace! Photo Competition (Investigation already ongoing, but we earlier found that the photo is indeed plagiarized from a flickr account)
2nd Calidad Humana National Essay Photography Composition (Smith's photo)

But he also joined:

2011 Momentum Blipfoto Contest (Account taken down, but it was man - in - wheelchair, same as in Papworth)
2012 SEAMEO INNOTECH Photo Contest (2nd place, Culture -- they also took his photo down as well but it was an Ati-atihan photo)
2012 Mulat Maninipat Photojourn Contest (Smith's photo)
2013 UN International Year of Water Cooperation Photo Contest (Smith's photo)

I don't know about the one from 2008.

you were saying that philippines is a nation of heroes and filipino's character is resilient.. well. tell you what, you just brought dishonor to your country..

If this kid actually is in school (can you believe anything he says?), he should get expelled. He should also have to pay back all the monies given to him, and/or go to jail.

how poor.... You are a disgrace to the Artistic Community of the World!! and your speech is kiling me... We the pros and aspiring artists are striving so hard to perfect our craft and you just copy it and claim it as yours!! WTH!!!!

Thanks to a group of Filipino photographers in Facebook and Overheard at Up they found out about this

His apology will not make up for it all. He'll be facing legal actions and his previous participations and wins in other contests will be investigated as well.

Please Expel this guy! He is not only a disgrace to the University but also to the country! He is wasting the money of the people of the Philippines. What will happen to our country if people like him are allowed to get good education? He does not deserve to be educated with the money of the people only to cheat his way to the top.


Stealing is very common here in the Philippines. Look at our politicians. Look at our issues now.. Pork barrel scam involving senators and Congressmen, plagiarizing senator, corrupt government, etc. and this photo thief is studying law. Ewwww.

We can still change this! We can start with ourselves! Come on guys let's do it!

You see, this is why we are encouraged to paraphrase, conceptualize, put into your OWN words, and not copy word for word from the source. We are encouraged to take a and b to equal c, a synthesis to form something NEW, original, or BUILD ON, NOT TAKE OWNERSHIP OF. You, being from a reputable university, and previously being in the debate society, should know this.

Youth is no excuse young sir, our forefathers once made our country fit to earn the title "Pearl of the Orient", what did you do?

I do hope the judging comittee would practice the necessary due diligence in choosing a winner next time, please do inquire, verify every entry you have. Try :)

Little Scumbag - What goes around comes around!!

Little Scumbag!

They say he is a "prolific writer ... who has presented papers ...". I wonder how many of those were stolen/plagiarized.

Wasn't his conscience bugging him during those times he was hearing his name as the winner? Didn't he feel queasy when he was on stage receiving 'his' awards? I think I would need some psychological explanations here--he has done it four times, for crying out loud! However, his apologies should at least be considered. I know it is never enough but we should understand that he is also human. What's done is done; the important thing is he must not do it again, ever. And, of course he must be punished from what he's done; that's theft!

I suppose he enjoyed the attention, the money and the prestige with winning using fake works.......and he probably felt elated that no one caught him at it.... but hey! thumbs up to you! you forgot the word KARMA when you started making a hobby of cheating and faking your way through your life....... :D

omg! did you listen to his speech in the vid? it was all bullshit! and this young man is in a graduate school studying public administration! shudder! may he never step into public office!

He is from UP!

Your a shame for the Philippines, you're so good in your field, articulate, a writer, scholar, etc. but still what you did can not be justified, a future politician and if not caught perhaps a future're disgrace to your own country, haven't you seen the effect of this to your fellowmen?
Whenever we go here or abroad, they would probably think that all of us is also a "stealer"..once is enough, twice is too much and thrice and so on is stupidity.

You're a disgrace for the Philippines, you're so good in your field, articulate, a writer, scholar, etc. but still what you did can not be justified, a future politician and if not caught perhaps a future thief..haven't you seen the effect of this to your fellowmen? Whenever we go here or abroad, they would probably think that all of us is also a "stealer"..once is enough, twice is too much and thrice and so on is stupidity.

Obnoxious. What dummies behind the contest let this go through

As my professor in IT said, "if you have computer, you are a thief". Whether you admit it or not, we are all thieves everytime we downloaded MP3s, videos, movies, pictures we are robbing someone else's work. The only mistake of Solis, he joined a contest with a stolen picture.

I agree that he should be punished for what he has done. But people here seems like they have not stolen someone else's work with a "holier than thou" attitude. This is not about being a Filipino defending a Filipino. I will not defend a criminal and what he has done is a crime.

"He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." - John 8:7

Further reading would show that the woman was asked to "go, and sin no more.." Unfortunately, this guy would go on and do this several more times. Plus, imho, mp3s vids and movies would be stolen if we sold it, knowing we got it free instead of paying, at a price. Please also do note that it was not his "only" mistake. I do not say this because I am spot-free, I am also filth, dirty, flawed, but I deal with it. It is unfair to people who are hardworking photographers, to see their work stolen, several times. Please understand that most people here are mad at him, not judging him. To those who do well, we can't stop 'em unfortunately.

"A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches,and loving favour rather than silver and gold." As for me, I am angry for him unecessarily putting in danger the reputation of his school, his country, and his parents for what he did. But I still do believe in redemption. Perhaps fate has still something in store for the boy, and to that I hope that he will redeem himself somehow, in spite of all these sharp words being thrown at him.



Regarding second chances.... This individual has done the same thing four times... He’s had plenty of chances to reflect and to modify his method. If this was done to beat a deadline and he was desperate, we could mabe accept his lapse of judgement b.s., but seems to me he’s trolling the internet for photos and submitting these as his own work. It was his choice to join the contest and his choice to steal to win. This is a pattern of behavior and not a lapse of judgement.

He apologised because he was caught. He became more brazen with every success that he thought he can get away with everything. Now his hopes for running in Public Office good as gone. And frankly, you are a disgrace to the good nature of the Philippine people and getting caught was the best thing to happen for them as you will most likely be a crooked politician. Talking straight-faced in the midst of your crime!

That is why I don't like pinoys, together with their annoying accents. I have worked and studied with a lot of 'em.. Most of them are "ok" if they are the only pinoy in the group, but once they gather two or three, damn, it is going to be a disaster with a lot of big and bullshit talks with no work done, all they want to do is put their name on the hardworks that other people do.. From all the nationalities that I have worked with, Filipinos are the worst people I have ever saw... This might be a racist comment, but this is the ugly truth..

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