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Lisa Saad disqualified by AIPP, WPPI and others

Updated 19/2/2019: The AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photography) has disqualified one of Lisa Saad’s 2018 Commercial Photographer of the Year-winning images following a formal complaint by Dutch photographer Marcel van Balken that significant elements of the composite had been lifted from one of his architectural images.

This image, ‘The Dancer’, has now been disqualified as part of Lisa Saad’s 2018 Commercial Photographer of the Year winning portfolio.

This was followed within 24 hours by an announcement from the WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photography International) regarding an unnamed female photographer, almost certainly Lisa Saad, who has been banned from WPPI competition for five years and had all past awards rescinded: ‘WPPI competitions’ rules specifically prohibit an entrant from submitting another artist’s work, using any stock photography images or using any portion of a photograph not personally captured by the entrant themselves in their submissions,’ the WPPI wrote on its Facebook page.

Marcel van Balken’s original image was captured at Harlem Centraal railway station.

‘Following a thorough examination of past entries, we have decided to rescind one member’s past WPPI awards and Honors of Excellence points. She will not be permitted to enter any WPPI competition for 5 years.

‘WPPI supports artists’ rights and the intellectual property of our photography community. We cannot condone plagiarism.’

Lisa Saad had more than 40 separate WPPI awards to her name since 2016, including many Golds and Silvers. At least some of here award-winning images are still on display (Feb 15) on the WPPI website.

19/2/2019: The UK-based Societies of Photographers just announced an unnamed Australian photographer, again almost certainly Lisa Saad, has had all images entered in competitions disqualified, been stripped of her Fellowship distinction title and had her membership terminated.

The statement by Phil Jones, Societies of Photographers CEO, says it will fill vacant Photographer of the Year Award categories and upgrade images by those who placed after Lisa. (see bottom of article)

Inside Imaging has sought clarification from the AIPP – not included in its formal announcement – as to whether the disqualification of a single image, ‘The Dancer’ (see above) from competition also strips her of the Commercial Photographer of the Year title, and if so whether another photographer will assume the award. 

‘Related matters are still being considered because multiple place-getters have to be rechecked, etc,’ said AIPP president, John Swainston.

He said the Awards Committee investigation has been broadened to include ‘many more pictures’. Currently the AIPP is reviewing 15 images across five years of competition.

He praised the research of Stop Stealing Photos on the issue as ‘very thorough and professional use of available technology’, but added that the review of the Awards Committee would take time, as their research ‘goes a little deeper’.

Stop Stealing Photos has updated a blog post, which shows many of Lisa’s award-winning photos may be in breach of contest rules.

More to come.

Full text of the AIPP announcement:
The AIPP has released the findings of the AIPP Awards Committee and independent specialist advice into the alleged breaches of entry rules, including alleged plagiarism, by Lisa Saad into the AIPP 2018 APPA Awards. The complaint was raised by Dutch photographer Marcel van Balken.

The AIPP became aware of rumours just over two weeks ago and sighted public accusations on Monday February 4. A media release was issued on February 5th to indicate the Institute’s intention to fully investigate the matter in the interests of due process and fairness to all. Members were also kept advised.

The Institute also instructed Legal Counsel with a view to advising on several aspects of the allegations. The Board also appointed independent experts to advise us on potential rules breaches and other matters. The Awards Committee sought RAW files from Lisa Saad, which were supplied. The Committee also made various enquiries about certain aspects and inconsistencies that were not self-evident from information provided.

As a result, regrettably, the image in question, submitted in the Commercial category of the AIPP Australian Professional Photography Awards in 2018, has now been disqualified, for breaches of rules of entry that have only now become apparent. Those rules include, amongst others:
that all elements of an entry must be the work of the entrant;
that ‘the use of third-party imagery such as stock photography … is prohibited’;
that ‘Entries that have been plagiarised, either knowingly or subconsciously, will be disqualified’;
that digital manipulation is allowed … but not to create new elements; and
that, in the case of composites and digital manipulation, all entrants must be able to supply a copy or proof of each element used to create the final image (and that failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification).

As many people will be aware, further allegations have been made in the public arena in relation to earlier State and National entries dating back several years. Those allegations are now undergoing similar detailed study and analysis for compliance with rules of entry. The Awards Committee has further images being reassessed. Time is needed to complete that work.

The AIPP Board is very conscious that many photographers will have had Lisa as a Judge of their prints in the Awards. Some people may also have lost out with otherwise winning images in various categories, in relation to the images now additionally being reviewed. All of this is being considered along with the ramifications for prizes. As before, once the reassessment has occurred the AIPP will detail specific actions resulting from that. The further investigation is well advanced and new RAW files have been requested.

The AIPP has also communicated with fellow organisations around the world also grappling with similar issues, including New Zealand. The ramifications are significant. One immediate action is that the AIPP will be proposing to these same bodies a joint taskforce to review rules and entry criteria for images involving digital illustration, to recommend a new worldwide standard from the overarching national professional bodies to prevent future occurrences of this nature. Australia’s participation in the World Photographic Cup (Being held in Norway in the Northern Spring) has enabled improved communication with the leadership of many of these organisations.

The Institute is committed to fairness and due process. It has been criticised for taking time to carry out the investigation. But with so much riding on a correct view, including the reputations of our Awards, the photographers, the AIPP itself and those directly affected by judging and results, had to be completely sure of the correct outcome for all parties.

The AIPP asks for continued patience to ensure once again that enough time is given to make the correct assessment on the added images being reassessed.

The Institute has communicated with Lisa Saad its decision on the disqualification of the 2018 image. Naturally the impact on her is significant and is highly regrettable. The AIPP remains committed to her continued wellbeing, which remains a key concern, notwithstanding the adverse findings against her.

The AIPP has run a national photographic award over four decades. Events such as this have occurred very rarely indeed. The Institute regrets that an image entered, in which all elements of originality could not ultimately be provided, made it through the stringent preassessment for compliance with entry rules. While category rules are already reviewed annually the AIPP will use coming weeks to strengthen processes to further reduce the risk of a recurrence in future awards.
– John Swainston, president, AIPP


The image on the left was part of the portfolio which won Lisa Saad the 2016 Australian Professional Photographer of the Year title. The image on the right is, according to blog Stop Stealing Photos, the original version from Montage Studio BKK.

Full text of The Societies of Photographers announcement:
Since taking over the SWPP in January 2000, we have had the pleasure of running both print and online photographic competitions.

Over the years we have seen thousands of stunning images that have inspired our members across the globe.

On the rare occasion, we have images reported to us that don’t abide by the rules of the competition or the spirit of the competition. In each case we take the matter very seriously and investigate each image accordingly with the dignity and respect that it deserves.

It has been brought to our attention, that a range of images submitted by an Australian entrant for both competitions and qualifications, have not been submitted in accordance with the rules of the competition.

Since the complaint was logged with our office, the team have been in contact with numerous international photographic associations, judges, representatives of the industry, our in-house team as well as of course with the entrant themselves.

We would like to take this time to thank the members for their patience whilst we investigated and resolved the complaint.

As of today (Monday 18 February 2019) we have taken the decision to disqualify all images entered in the competitions, remove the Fellowship distinction and terminate the membership of the entrant in accordance with the Terms and Conditions of Membership outlined in the Members’ Handbook.

Decisions like this are not reached easily or quickly and of course our main concern is to protect the interest of the photographic industry, whilst given the entrant every opportunity to defend themselves satisfactorily.

Over the next few days we will be looking to upgrade images where possible, to fill the now vacant Photographer of the Year Award categories. We will also be updating all our media channels where possible.

Could we take this moment to remind all photographers to comprehensively read the rules of all photographic competitions before entering and above all abide by the spirit of the competition, to share their passion of photography.
– Phil Jones, CEO, The Societies of Photographers




  1. Dino Thepenis Dino Thepenis February 14, 2019

    GoFund me account coming in 3, 2, 1….

    • Anon-E-Mouse Anon-E-Mouse May 13, 2019

      She already did. She raised THOUSANDS to sell her book full of other peoples works

  2. Augustus Gloop Augustus Gloop February 14, 2019

    “The Institute has communicated with Lisa Saad its decision on the disqualification of the 2018 image. Naturally the impact on her is significant and is highly regrettable. The AIPP remains committed to her continued wellbeing, which remains a key concern, notwithstanding the adverse findings against her.”

    Why are they so committed to protect someone they’ve determined to be a cheater and plagiarist? She betrayed their trust and harmed everyone else in those contests.

  3. James S. James S. February 15, 2019

    I’m not a photographer neither a member of AIPP. Knowing from fact, answering your question here Augustus:
    AIPP is not protecting her, they have rules in this regards that they have to follow, for instance when such claims are risen the accused has 28 days to answer/provide evidence, for each accused piece. etc. etc.
    Furthermore, AIPP to AIPP members is family, every member of AIPP now knows how big this is and how bad this will end for her. it has already started. all those awards will be stripped, all her titles possibly, even membership, she might face a lifetime ban or something like that. there is no doubt in this. however we really want to break a person for this? she’ll pay by possibly loosing her job, AIPP is not protecting that, they simply asking ppl to let’s be wise on choosing words as this person [rightfully or wrongfully] was part of Australian photography family (not only AIPP), and more importantly a human being who might face very serious [mental and/or physical] health damages after all this.
    she made damages to MANY no doubt, and I’m sure she’ll pay that. let’s just hope that will be limited in $s only.
    I’m saying all these while I personally never liked her.

  4. AIPP Look After Their Own AIPP Look After Their Own February 18, 2019

    AIPP…what a joke!

  5. Warren Rowe Warren Rowe February 19, 2019

    Knowingly cheating can come back to bite you in a really big way. With competitions that AIPP, SWPP and others offer, entries are generall based on the honour system in that the rules are supposedly being followed. When such a system is violated, there are and should be repercussions. From what I’ve read here and other places, this type of activity has been going on for several years; therefore the penalties imposed should be severe and no apologies for imposing such penalties should be given.

    If anything, this should be taken as a “learning moment” by the world’s photographic institutes and organizations. I think the idea of a single body that handles rules in these competitions is not a bad idea. I know that some will not agree with me here, but it’s a start to say the least.

  6. kenny kenny February 19, 2019

    Shes been disqualified so how are they looking after her?

  7. Angus Martin Angus Martin February 19, 2019

    This makes me SO angry. Such astonishingly selfish, unethical behaviour over a long period of time. Such disrespect to, first and foremost, those whose work she stole. But also the people who run the awards, judges, other participants, her clients, people who worked with her, and the wider professional photographer community.

    And the AIPP…I really would love to be part of a professional body that I respect and can trust. This is yet more evidence that it’s just your garden variety Kleptocracy.

  8. Andrikko Andrikko February 23, 2019

    What’s the AIPP have to do with it?

  9. Tom Tom May 15, 2019

    Hi ,
    I think Lisa Saad world has crumbled , she been disqualified , lost all her memberships maybe he her job .. Lisa Saad Reputation tatters , her awards will be stripped, . I think the AIPP have been very thorough in their finding & decisions ,.

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