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]

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Previous comments
Thomas Emil Sørensen's picture

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.

Brian Bray's picture

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.

Kristian Colasacco's picture

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

Brian Bray's picture

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.

Lorri Adams's picture

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

Greg O'Hanlon's picture

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

Jorge Boosh's picture

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

Russell Howes's picture

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

MisterBig's picture

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.

epiquestions's picture

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.

Robert L's picture

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:

Lorri Adams's picture

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

David Apeji's picture

They must be thieves too.

Bogan Brouhaha's picture

What a dirty dog.

Bogan Brouhaha's picture

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

Carmilla's picture

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.

joecel arroyo's picture

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..

Spy Black's picture

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.

Sleepy Dizzy's picture

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!!!!

RESO's picture

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

Alex Atienza's picture

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.

Matthew's picture

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.


JRPerez's picture

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.

Vin Cruz's picture

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

Novas's picture

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 :)

Deleted Account's picture

Little Scumbag - What goes around comes around!!

Deleted Account's picture

Little Scumbag!

David Apeji's picture

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

Miss D.'s picture

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!

Rina's picture

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

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