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The “winning” photograph by Instagram user @bogdhan (left) is obviously a slightly altered version of Hengki Koentjoro’s original image on right. (images via Instagram and Deviant Art)

Samsung’s #LiveInTheMoment Instagram photo contest has been mired in controversy since a winning photograph was discovered to be the image of another photographer that was altered by flipping, cropping, and adding a filter. When the technology giant announced Instagram user @bogdhan’s “commuting” photo the winner of the June contest, a friend of photographer Hengki Koentjoro noticed the striking similarity to one of Koentjoro’s own photographs — it was, in fact, a version of his original image.

After Koentjoro left a comment under @bogdhan’s winning image on the Samsung Camera Facebook page, Facebook commenters were noticeably upset at what most saw clearly as an obvious image theft.

What resulted was a major sign of support for Koentjoro’s intellectual property, as the Image and View blog explains:

Within the social web, solidarity and support for the well known photographer (who promotes his work via social media platforms such as Flickr, 500Pix, Facebook and Google+) were overwhelming: During the first few hours after Koentjoro left his comment on Facebook – and also on Samsung Camera’s instagram stream – hundreds of his fans responded. They did not only blame the infringing user of image theft and copyright fraud, but also criticized the company for copyright infringment [sic] and ignorance on the case, directly addressed by properly tagging Samsung Camera.

Faced with user anger, Samsung deleted the image and the accompanying thread on Facebook and contacted Koentjoro about the contest to reassure him that the winner would not collect his prize.

But the Indonesian photographer doesn’t think Samsung’s response has been enough. “No definitely not, but then again if they apologizes that means they are wrong and they don’t want that,” Koentjoro told Hyperallergic. “I would be very surprised if Samsung offers any more explanation or apologies. They certainly should but most large companies like that [n]ever do the right thing. So the only thing to do is to gather fellow photographer and media to give hassle like bad publicity. After all this problem is very much preventable, they can use the service of TinEye or Google Image Search to check for copyright, but the most important is to ask for the original/RAW file that way we know who’s the real owner of the photograph.”

Representatives of Tokyo’s TobinOhashi Gallery, where Koentjoro shows, believe that Samsung should do more, including a clear explanation as to what happened and a “serious apology” to the artist himself.

@bogdhan, for his part, has not offered an apology for the incident but has chosen to delete his Facebook profile account, though he continues to maintain his Instagram account. @bogdhan’s Instagram posts have been littered with negative comments, such has “Thief!” and “This photo is not yours. Delete it now, thanks.”

A few hours after my request for comment from @bogdhan on Instagram, @bogdhan posted another reply to people who are posting negative comments (his origin reply, which has since been deleted, is on Image and View):

Before posting his emotional comment, @bogdhan posted a photo of an elderly woman with the following bizarre caption:

When asked about @bogdhan and his actions, Koentjoro had little to say. “I can’t speculate on a person I don’t know. It is his choice that will stick with him the rest of his life, it’s his karma,” he said.

Our requests for comment from @bogdhan and Samsung Camera have not been answered.

The following is the Instagram comment feed from earlier today for @bogdhan’s “winning” image. Many of the negative comments have since been deleted and new ones have been added (as our very brief timeline below indicates):

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

6 replies on “Stolen Shot “Wins” Samsung Photo Contest”

  1. There is one good thing that came from it. LOTS more people now know the original photographer and are enjoying his work. Which in a few ways leads me to believe this all might just be one big PR stunt.

      1. The photographer would have had to control Samsung’s contest as well to have the image selected as winner. Not all things are a conspiracy. Just an asshole stealing another photographer’s image. This happens probably every second of every day on the internet, but because he won a prize, this time people did not like someone staling pictures. Why are people not equally outraged when someone steals an image that is not theirs and puts it on their blog, or facebook, or whatever….the theft is just the same. But on the internet stealing has become acceptable. So much so, this bogdahn person clearly does not even comprehend the wrong he/she has done.

  2. Strikin’ out on the [sic]s tonight! I see no error for the first one. I’m guessing that you thought the verb didn’t agree with the subject, but it does; the subject was collective (“solidarity and support”). Solidarity and support were overwhelming. The second, you missed a space after it.

    I try not to be a grammar nazi. I just can’t resist when people make errors while pointing out other people’s errors.

    1. You’re right. I rushed it before running out for our event tonight. Thanks for catching those. And it’s not pointing out other’s errors, I simply could not change the quote (I did omit the lack of capitalization of Instagram ;)

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