(NOTE: Gregory John Smith sent the following via Facebook in response to a query from The Filipino Scribe. He is the owner of the image that Mark Joseph Solis, a graduate student from the University of the Philippines, used in winning a photo competition organized by the Embassy of Chile last week.)
Please tell us about your background
I am a social entrepreneur of the Global Network of Social Entrepreneurs of ASHOKA, highly respected for their ethical practice and innovative actions to change the world. I founded the Children At Risk Foundation – CARF 20 years ago to help street children in Brazil and other parts of the world, including the Philippines. My project today helps almost 2000 children at risk in Brazil.
What is the photo all about?
The child depicted in the winning image is one of my kids. The photo was actually taken by me in Brazil in 2006, whilst on Christmas holidays at the coast together with four brothers from the same poverty stricken family in Brasil, who were supported by our programme at the time. The photo was taken on a beach in Paraty, Rio de Janeiro, whilst the kids were having fun chucking seaweed at each other. The original image can be found on my Flickr Gallery here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/beija-flor/83883888/.
How did you know that your photo was used by Solis without your permission?
I have been flowing over with letters of support from many Filipino friends who found the idea of an imposter entering my photo into such a respected contest as rather disgusting, also letters of support from many other citizens around the world. I obviously have many international followers on Flickr, where the many portraits of my children have had more than 10 million views according to Flickr Stats.
Do you plan to pursue charges against Solis?
As I myself have already planned a visit to Manila and New Smokey Mountain at the beginning of 2014, together with some of the young people from my social development programme in Brazil, to visit a partnership programme that we support in a small way there called Young Warriors (I recommend that you all try to support those kids in some way).
I found this was a nice opportunity to suggest to the organizers of this contest that they revert the prize money to my foundation, also the travel prize, which we would make really good use of to help pay the trip for our own Young Warriors who will be going for the visit and who need all the support they can get, coming from poverty stricken families here in Brazil, instead of offering such a round-trip to Brazil and Chile to an imposter.
I think my suggestion is much more in line with the thoughts behind the contest. So I have commented to the contest organizers explaining the situation, also sent an e-mail to the chairman of the Jury, Mr. Oscar Lopez, a well-known Filipino businessman, as I am sure that being involved in such an episode plays havoc with his own integrity as a successful business entrepreneur.
I have also commented about the situation to the Chilean Ambassador to Manila, Roberto Mayorga, who conceptualized the contest. Unfortunately I do not have the time to hunt down personal contact information for these important people to make direct contact with them, so I am relying on the internet connections to do the job for me. So far I have heard nothing, but then again, it is the weekend, so maybe on Monday I shall get an answer from someone.
I really would love to see this unfortunate situation turned around into something really positive, seeing as we already have this inter-cultural exchange that we will be doing between the underprivileged Young Warriors of New Smokey Mountain and the underprivileged Young Warriors from my own programme in Brazil. I think that would bring more dignity to an otherwise rather embarrassing situation for the contest organizers.
- Marco Joseph Tajo Solis’ ‘stolen shots’ (filipinoscribe.com)