The Australian Institute Of Professional Photography (AIPP) has cancelled the membership of a photographer and rescinded all her awards, titles and prizes from four years of both state and national awards spanning 2015 to 2018, which includes the 2016 AIPP Australian Photographer Of The Year award. The action comes after an investigation into 20 of the photographer’s entries to these various contests which was triggered by a formal complaint concerning an image submitted to the 2018 Australian Professional Photography Awards (APPAs) and which subsequently contributed to the winning of the Commercial category.

The complaint was brought by Dutch architectural photographer Marcel van Balken and concerned an image by Melbourne photographer Lisa Saad. An investigation by the AIPP’s Awards Committee found that there was sufficient evidence to conclude Ms Saad’s image had breached APPA entry rules in a number of areas, including the alleged plagiarism. Questions about a number of other images by Lisa Saad were also raised, primarily, by the investigative Website Stop Stealing Photos, prompting the AIPP to request further evidence from the photographer to substantiate the originality of her work. The requested files were not made available by the nominated time and instead, while not admitting guilt, she asked for the images to be withdrawn. Such an action automatically disqualifies the images and all respective awards. The membership cancellation applies “indefinitely” and, in addition to the disqualifications, Ms Saad will not be permitted to enter future AIPP state or national awards.

In statement released to the media, the AIPP says, “The Institute finds that there has been an ongoing breach of rules over a number of years, which have not only now brought the AIPP into disrepute through no fault of the AIPP, but more importantly, adversely affected all those who might otherwise have been announced as winners or awardees at the time.

“The AIPP is now going through the large number of categories and awards over the relevant years. It will soon announce revised winners in a number of state and national Awards. The AIPP has the required judging records and point scores from the relevant awards events. To the best of its ability, the AIPP will work to make good on the rightful winners and category entrants directly affected. The scale of the corrective action required means not all matters can be resolved or adjusted immediately.”

As Ms Saad was also regularly on judging panels at the APPAs during this period, the AIPP says it has examined a sample of images handled by these panels and is satisfied that no entry would have been adversely scored.

“The remainder of the five-member judging panel – plus panel chair and assisting chair – would have drawn similar outcomes after deducting her input, due to the way the scoring system adjusts for any one of the five judges and chair surveillance. As a result, no changes to awards points for an individual picture of which Lisa Saad was a judge will be made.”

The AIPP says it will move to strengthen the validity of entries to its various awards via additional audit and review processes of images, using additional independent checks and technology.

AIPP president, John Swainston, comments, “As some 70-plus awards globally have been involved across six different awards bodies, this is not isolated just to Australia. This must be seen as an opportunity to further strengthen validity of entries for the benefit of the vast majority of honest and compliant photographers entering photographic awards”.