Photographer Caught Winning Awards With Other People’s Photos

A stolen photo that won an award
The stolen photo that won third place in the 2023 WPE Awards Commercial category | Alex Koloskov

A photographer has been awarded multiple prizes in a photo competition for work that was not his own, PetaPixel has exclusively learned.

Italian Davide Francese has entered numerous photos into the WPE Awards and while some of them appear to be his own, others have been stolen from other photographers — including one who found Francese had taken eight of his images.

Francese has apologized for his transgression, telling PetaPixel he purchased an online tutorial operated by Alex Koloskov from Photigy and believed he could use them for any purpose.

“I didn’t know they couldn’t be used,” he says in an email. “I apologize for this, I didn’t know I couldn’t.”

WPE Awards congratulate Francese on Instagram
In a since-deleted post, the WPE Awards congratulate Francese for third place in the 2023 WPE Awards Commercial category for a photo he stole from another photographer.
The original shoe photos
The image belongs to Alex Koloskov. He made a photography course around it which Francese purchased.

However, it wasn’t just Koloskov’s photos that Francese misused, he was awarded the silver badge in the Wedding Details category in 2020 using a photo that was apparently taken from Pixabay. But he had manipulated the stock photo by adding a glass of drink to the image.

Francese’s award-winning images from the 2020 WPE Awards Wedding Details category, left, the photo he apparently used as the base from Pixabay, right. Image by Irfan Haider on Pixabay


The WPE Awards, based in Paris, France, had a biography page for Francese, where “his” winning photos were displayed. However, this page has now been deleted by the website after PetaPixel alerted them to the situation.

The biography page
Francese’s now deleted biography page on the WPE Awards. The red dots represent photos that he stole from the Photigy website.
Marked photos from his biography page
All of the red dots represent Alex Koloksov’s photos that were stolen except for the ‘Just Love’ shot that was apparently taken from Pixabay.

Marked photos from his biography page

Marked photos from his biography page

Francese primarily shoots weddings and he insists that the matrimony shots are all his own. For instance, in the 2023 competition, he is still credited as winning third place in the Groom Alone Wedding Day category.

But he entered numerous product photos which were all stolen from Alex Koloskov, the CEO and founder of Photigy — an online photography course portal. A reverse image search with Google Lens quickly led to the source photos.

“I feel proud,” Koloskov jokes to PetaPixel. “I never understood why guys like him are doing this. Good images will always find their owner, this is why I never put watermarks on my work and never suggest [doing so] for my students. The best copyright is the publicity of an outstanding work.”

The Grand Prize

The WPE Awards works on a points system, there are multiple categories to enter and photographers are ranked overall. The grand prize winner receives a $2,158 (2,000 Euros) cash prize, there are no tangible prizes for second or third (apart from free entries into the next competition).

Francese was ranked 25th in 2023’s competition and has an overall world ranking of 32nd which takes in previous competitions so he doesn’t appear to have monetarily gained from stealing other photographer’s work — but was attempting to.

Ranking on WPE
Francese’s ranking on WPE as of June 13, 2023.

But he has scooped multiple awards with other people’s photos, denying other photographers the opportunity the fuzzy feeling of being recognized for their hard work.

In the first half of the 2022 WPE competition, Francese won third place in the Wedding Details category with a photo taken by Alex Koloskov from Photigy.

In the 2022 annual WPE Awards, he was awarded third place in the Commercial category for a gorgeous product photo of a watch — that was taken by Alex Koloskov.

And in the first half of the 2023 awards, Francese once again used Koloskov’s concept photo of a pair of shoes to win third place in the Commercial category.


The WPE Awards did not respond to PetaPixel’s emails but has now removed some of Francese’s work from its website.

Both the WPE and Francese have removed Instagram posts celebrating his achievements.

PetaPixel has seen messages from the competition’s organizer saying of Francese: “We warned him, if he does it again, we will terminate his membership.”

Francese has also been in direct contact with Koloskov to apologize for stealing his photos.

“I bought the course from you and you also sent me the files but I didn’t know that I couldn’t [use] them,” he says.

Koloskov remains unimpressed.

In the competition’s terms and conditions, it clearly states that by entering the participant “accepts that he/she is the owner of the photos.”