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
edlyn's picture

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!

Jojo David's picture

He is from UP!

Guest's picture

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.

Marizette Benosa's picture

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.'s picture

Obnoxious. What dummies behind the contest let this go through

Rico Navea's picture

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

Novas's picture

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.



Xine's picture

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.

Anthony Cayetano's picture

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!

Clint Ag's picture

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..

Clint Henry Espiritu's picture

youth and lack of experience huh??? Mr Solis you are a student of one of the country's most prestigious school. UP students are known for their intelligence but you are dumb to think that you wont get caught if you submit a plagiarized photo to an international competition. Dumb!

Ras Putin's picture

I'm a Filipino and photographer, this guy is disgusting. It was like a game to him, smiling in front of a respected men e.g. Ambassador of Chile and others.
He'll live in shame for this, it was not poverty who drove you from stealing but the ego, pride and immaturity to show off that your someone in the field you want to be in but never tried being one.
Your name and your Country will be forever remembered for what you have done.
You may live forever to see the shame that you brought not just to you but to you Family and you Country.

sagacious's picture

this is just pure greed. the letter is just putting himself in a good position but never really admitting his mistakes. it sucks. hope that this guy get sued till he drops

David Taylor's picture

Wouldn't they have discovered the fraud with a Google image search? If so I have to question the due process of the organisers.

KLMarkert's picture

Amazing. I am stunned, but not surprised. We all have something to learn about protecting our copyright rights, and find ways to hopefully prevent this (if and when possible). Shared this on

Elsa Wood's picture

with no experience! that`s great! my congratulations!