Photo Stealers site targets top Australian photographer

Currently, there’s a storm brewing around an image that Melbourne photographer Lisa Saad produced which received a Silver with Distinction (Commercial category) at the 2018 Australian Professional Photography Awards, run by the AIPP. 

On 3 February, website Photo Stealers published a story on their site accusing Saad of using elements of a photo by Dutch photographer Marcel van Balken, which he created in 2017.

© Lisa Saad
© Lisa Saad

The AIPP's Compliance and Awards Committees are currently reviewing the allegations, with the process expected to take up to two weeks.

John Swainston, National President of the AIPP, has indicated that the stance of the organisation is “impartial and non-judgmental until facts are established”.

Swainston issued the following statement on behalf of the AIPP earlier this week:

Significant comment has been made in social media in recent days about an AIPP prizewinning image by Lisa Saad, an AIPP member and leading Melbourne-based Commercial and art Photographer, following a posting in 
The AIPP became aware of the striking similarity of the two images in contention almost a week ago. Immediately a referral was made to both the Compliance and the Awards Committees of the AIPP for review, which is a long-standing standard process in such cases. 

The AIPP does not usually comment on such matters until due process is complete. The AIPP is also committed to the presumption of innocence until a thorough and complete review of all the facts in a case are fully investigated. As has occurred on the rare occasions this type of situation has arisen in the past, where plagiarism or appropriation of another photographer’s work or a breach of entry rules has been found to have occurred beyond reasonable doubt, then any award or category prize that the image has been given may be withdrawn and returned. 

A photographer entering the AIPP State Awards or the national APPA contest makes several binding undertakings relating to sole authorship, that all photographic elements are their own and that all the images and elements have been made within two years. A proven breach results in varying degrees of penalty. In a case of appropriation such an instance would also be a breach of the AIPP’s code of conduct and may result in suspension, amongst other matters. Investigations of this nature are not always simple, especially in complex-multi-element digital illustration employing photographic elements. 

The AIPP believes that in the interests of natural justice the review process now under way should continue professionally and without prejudice. Once the outcome of the review is complete then the AIPP will act according to the findings. The process may take up to two weeks to determine. 

The AIPP, regardless of the outcome in the case currently under review, abhors the immediate assumption of guilt and the public expression of that in some recent-day social media posts. This is highly damaging to fair and natural justice or impartial judgement and to the profession of photography. Such assertions as observed in some forums are both slanderous and tantamount to a mob mentality. Social media does not provide freedom from prosecution under several laws in Australia for such behaviours. Regardless of the facts in this case, the AIPP believes everyone should be presumed innocent until due process is complete and the case proven otherwise.

– John Swainston, National President, AIPP.

UPDATE – 13/2/19

Since we first published this story, there has been no further public announcement from the AIPP. We reached out to the AIPP for comment earlier this week, and were informed the investigation is continuing. We expect an official statement to be made late this week or early next week.

Following the publication of this story, a number of additional allegations against Saad have been made on the Photo Stealers website relating to the eligibility of other images entered into the APPAs and other competitions.

UPDATE – 14/2/19

The AIPP has disqualified Lisa Saad's image from the 2018 APPAs. Please follow this link for the story.