Should The Photography Industry Turn Its Back on Doug Gordon?

Doug Gordon is a prevailing photographer and educator in the photography community. Whether you recognize his name or not, you've probably seen him on stages for just about every photo expo in the last five years. Through his industry connections, Doug has found a lot of success in his career, but what many don't know, is that he has stirred up a lot of controversy through plagiarism and deceitfulness.

Plagiarism

For the second time in a single year, Doug Gordon has been caught plagiarizing writings on his website. Through the detective work of PhotoStealers.com, they have stumbled across what appears to be another prime example of theft from Doug Gordon and his staff. From artist bios, to entire articles and concepts were found stolen by Doug Gordon and his staff through Photostealers, and they quickly jumped to expose him for his crimes.

When this event first happened back in July of 2013, I personally called Doug and spoke with him over the phone. Between his moments of boasting his own accreditation of photography and education, were moments of honest apologetic behavior. He did not excuse his actions, he simply asked for forgiveness on his lapse of judgment and actions. Perhaps against my better judgment, I did. As an editor of a popular photography website, I understand the forever need to find and create new and interesting content for your viewers, and while I've certainly never resorted to plagiarism, I sympathized with the stress he was dealing with. The piece I was writing for Fstoppers at the time was never published (Though Jasmine Star wrote one concerning her own actions at the same time). Eventually, WPPI stated that he was not welcomed on stage for their future events, and that punishment would be struck down. But was it?

Since this moment in time, not much has seemingly changed. Doug was invited to the Nikon booth at WPPI, and was still given his microphone and soapbox to pitch his workshops and education materials at the same event he was banned from as punishment. Doug has still traveled all over the United States, educating photographers of his techniques and skills as a wedding photographer. And Nikon even went as far as making him a Nikon Ambassador (a title that comes with a nice paycheck along with it's prestige) following the scandal that seemingly has gone unpunished. But what comes to many as a surprise is that Doug didn't change either, and has plagiarized more material since being caught red handed back in 2013.

Plagiarism Round 2

That's right, Doug was recently exposed once again by PhotoStealers that his website contains even more stolen material. Stolen from friend and colleague Steve Rosenbaum, Doug has equipped his workshops website with an eloquently written piece about his career as a photographer. The downside however, is that it's nearly verbatim to Steve Rosenbaum's About Us page for his marketing company S.I.R. Marketing - A company heavily ingrained in the photography community with clients such as Pentax, Alien Skin, and even WPPI.

Evidence showing the stark similarities in Doug's About Me and S.I.R. Marketing Communications

Doug Gordon stated that the About Me bio was written prior to the first plagiarism scandal, and simply slipped through the cracks when they removed many of the pieces that PhotoStealers exposed. However, screen captures from PhotoStealers paints a different story, showing that this newly plagiarized About Me was posted months after the first accusations were made.

I was able to reach out and speak with Steve Rosenbaum on the news surfacing about Doug's stolen About Me page, and Steve responded with a formal comment on the situation --

Appearing on the Facebook message thread were various other comments surrounding the similarity between my Agency’s “About Us” website page (which we wrote and published on my Agency’s website more than a decade ago) and a similar statement that was published on Doug Gordon’s website. I’m sorry but I can’t explain anything about that because neither my Agency nor I had any involvement with, or knowledge of that modified material, which appeared on Doug’s site.

Since the surfacing of this new material of plagiarism, Gary Fong has spoken out on his relationship with Doug Gordon, and the disappoint he has with Doug's actions. Gary spoke with PhotoStealers and writes -


I can say this without fear of actionable libel or slander. Doug Gordon has repeatedly lied to me, and has stolen from others. I was sticking up for him because of the story he shared with me from the past, but I doubt that anything Doug says is true.

You can share/post/republish this as you wish. I am not going to get involved into contacting Nikon about this information, but the buying public should be aware of this as should Nikon.

Client Experiences

Perhaps the biggest surprise came in the form of public outcry upon the releasing of all this information above. While scrolling through the comments of other pages, some claims were found on Doug Gordon's work and character that were extremely deceitful on how he operates his wedding photography business. 

Conversation showing one client of Doug's getting manipulated

As posted above, in the comments of a recent article exposing Doug Gordon for the above mentioned plagiarism is someone claiming that Doug Gordon also sent students to photograph their wedding in his place. Comes as no surprise from a man who claims to shoot over 50 weddings a year despite giving workshops, lectures and seminars all over the United States. I was able to reach out to Nick (whom asked to have his last name revoked from the article) and get additional information on the situation. Nick writes --


We hired a local studio that Doug was a partner or owner in.  The studio was supposed to do the usual; candid photos throughout the day as well as the wedding party poses, etc.  What we ended up with was one photographer that was seemingly unfamiliar with the settings on his camera and a “helper” that did not have a camera at all and was extremely young (under 15 maybe) as well as obviously inexperienced.

Nick continued by explaining how guests at the wedding were helping the photographer throughout the day with various camera settings, trying to save whatever damage was done by the unexperienced photographer. During the follow up meeting, they met with Doug, and said they did not feel it was appropriate to pay the final balance on the photographs, as they did not get the product they expected. The follow up went as follows --

Doug is a fast talking salesman. [...] We were robbed of a proper photography team on our wedding day and then threatened with the police showing up at our door because we put a hold on the credit card payment. The only thing that we had from Doug at this point was a book of proofs. We did not have an album or albums, we did not have full access to the few photos that we had seen previously. In the end we paid the balance as the constant threats from Doug were not stopping and we just wanted him to go away.

 
We still do not have an album and likely never will have one.  Every wedding we attend is a reminder of what we were cheated out of by getting stuck with Doug Gordon.
 

While this is just an example from one client in his hundrends of clients over the last few years, it still leaves a lingering sour taste. Certainly we've all had clients and situations where we've dropped the ball, but I've never heard of one in such detail.

So What Has Happened In This Recent Wake?

Since the most recent actions of Doug have been made known, we reached out to Nikon for comment. In reply, Nikon stated the following with regards to the Nikon Ambassadors Program:

We can confirm that Doug Gordon is no longer a part of the program. Our program focus continues to be inspiring and educating photographers of all levels. 

Before and After taken from Nikon's Ambassador Program Page.

 

However, Doug is still teaching his workshops, and still faced without anything other than criticism from his peers. People who once defended his actions have now turned their backs on him in light of the second wave of information. He's still working in the industry, he's still teaching workshops, and he's still making a living off of plagiarism and deceitfulness.

So what will happen to Doug Gordon? Should he be banned from more speaking events and stages? Should studios prevent him from teaching his workshops all over the United States? I'd love to hear your comments and concerns in the comment section below.

This article is an opinion piece and does not express the views or concerns of Fstoppers, Fstoppers staff, or the photography community as a whole. All information was provided by sources that were cited throughout the article, as well as presented at the bottom of the article. Doug Gordon was contacted to make a formal statement and this article will update if/when that statement is made.

[images via PhotoStealers, Information through multiple sources stated throughout the article]

[Lead Image by Lynn Barsigian | Used With Permission]

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45 Comments

Adam Ottke's picture

Unbelievable. It's so easy to steal others' work in this day and age. And so easy to get caught. Why people still do this is beyond me... Does he need the extra work/money THAT badly? Would he have suffered in any way had he never plagiarized and been honest? I don't think so. And that makes me sick regardless. Thankfully Nikon FINALLY did what was right, here. Hopefully others follow suit.

Eric Lefebvre's picture

Just head out to http://stopstealingphotos.com/ .... it's a bit quiet there right now since it's the wedding season but during the off times we can get 3-4 well researched stealers a week. Considering that Corey and the rest of us are busy with our businesses and full times jobs (as the case may be) that's a scary number.

And Corey just focuses on Photographers stealing from other Photographers ... she doesn't touch companies, publications, scrapper sites ...

Julien Kauffmann's picture

Wow I think the most shocking part of your article (very pleasant by the way) is that he sent students to photograph wedding in his place. Plagiarism is I think very mean, especially for us photographer who always complain about stolen pictures and copyright but frauding clients ? Seriously ? I feel very sorry for the just married people who had paid a lot for a newbies and who will have no chance to have new eddings pictures ...

Josean Rosario's picture

A child no less under 15 lol

Aaron Brown's picture

The answer is yes.

Nick Fisher's picture

Yes.

Blaise Castellano's picture

the answer is in the featured photo

Chelsea Higgins's picture

Shameful. Kudos, PhotoStealers for exposing for the second time.

Trey Amick's picture

Ban him from everything...It seems pretty obvious that he's just out to scam people out of money.

Trent Jones's picture

Yes, but I hope he does the right thing and at least send Nick the full-res photos so he can have a real professional finish what Doug started.

Michael Brinkerhoff's picture

I don't know this guy so I'm taking all of this with a grain of salt. It looks like there is a pretty good case against this guy. Plagiarism.. shame on him.. fix it, change your txt. Done! A year later you still have the same text up... it doesn't sound like he has changed much. Sending students to do a job you signed up for? That is bad. Was he sick in the hospital? Because that is the only way I would ever send someone else in my place. In the 8 years I have been photographing weddings, I have never missed a single one even if I don't feel so great.

It sounds like he has had plenty of opportunities to clean up his business practices and he has just shrugged it aside. Pity, he has soared so high.

I think the good news we can all get from this article is: There is now an open spot in Nikon's Ambassador Program.

Anonymous's picture

Based on what I've read, I think we may be in danger of overreacting. Whilst I in no way condone plagiarism or treating clients in the way described in the FB thread (before anyone leaps on me!), it looks to me like the man is over stretching himself and has taken his eye off the ball. Did he write the plaigirised 'About Me' piece? I doubt it. There was probably a junior tasked with that and made the mistake of looking elsewhere for 'inspiration'. DG and his team were clearly at fault by not checking the description thoroughly. As for not fielding an experienced team for a wedding, it smacks of having too many commitments and getting caught out. I'm sure he is mortified by the reaction from the couples, we all would be. I'd rather not condemn someone for mistakes (even if they've been repeated) and don't agree with the article title. The community should show it's distaste, try to understand and support/advise.

Sam Merkel's picture

How he treats his clients cannot be excused by "over stretching" himself. He clearly pulled a bait and switch on the couple in the article and when confronted with what he did he threatened legal action and effectively ruined their wedding. He is clearly a con, his mentality is to cheat, lie, threaten, and make money. Even when caught multiple times his behavior has remained the same, there is no excuse for neither his plagiarism nor how he treats clients. You simply do not treat people that way, especially as a professional.

Chris Newman's picture

Agreed. I think we all would love to be "overstretched". There is an ethical and market-based way of dealing with this, it's called "raising your prices". You can do 50 weddings a year for $5,000 or you can do 25 for $10,000 and make the same money and you are more likely to exceed expectations when you can focus (pun) on those 25 clients rather than "stretch" yourself to do 50. Promising 50 weddings a year only to outsource them is a recipe for brand erosion and disaster if you ask me.

Susannah Maynard's picture

No danger of an overreaction. This guy is full of himself and showed no remorse for what he did, as evidenced by the fact it didn't stop. When he was caught out the first time, the most telling thing for me regarding his level of dishonesty was the fact that one of the lifted posts was a love letter to his wife. Stolen. From another man's love letter to his wife. This was supposed to be on a personal blog that was supposedly written by Mr. Gordon and from the heart. Well, at least we know what that heart is made out of.

james johnson's picture

Last year when he was caught the first time, he blamed being overstretched and leaving the writing to staff members. I believed him (still do on that account). There is no excuse for it happening again so quickly. It appears that at the very least, he is unconcerned with running an ethical business, and at worst, he is stealing other people's work and passing it off as his own.

Christopher McRae's picture

Hey Doug Gordon, is this you???

Douglas Sonders's picture

yikes

Regis Hervagault's picture

in the old days before the interwebs we would ban offenders after some kind of public punishment setting a strong example to prevent further dishonest behaviour... it was called "Tarring and feathering" ... we miss that nowadays that so many shady characters get to speak and teach workshops or call themselves a professional without acting like so.

Daniel Garcia's picture

If we don't draw the line here, how far do we allow this behavior? 86 Doug.

Andrew Yianne's picture

Unbelievable. This man is a disgrace to the industry and gives photographers a bad name. Now if you excuse me, I need to lie down because I just got very dizzy from looking through his portfolio where almost no image is straight. 80% of them have a "creative" tilt to them.

Michael Rapp's picture

Do I think that plagirism should be outlawed and punishable? Yes.
Do I think that plagiarists and and rip- offs should be driven out of (any) industry? Yes.
But I do have difficulties when the accusor becomes the judge and jury.
Please, don't get me wrong: if Doug is guilty as stated, he should be run out of town on a rail.
If.
And that should not be for me/ us to decide. That's why courts were invented in the first place. All sides are heard, all evidence is viewed, in cold blood, by an independent entity. And only then, judgement is passed.
Zach, thank you for bringing this to our attention, but I'll leave my pitchfork in the barn for today. I do have my private opinions on this matter, but they stay private until more light is shone on this matter
#witchhunt

james johnson's picture

Unfortunately plagiarism is usually not subject to legal action (you have to prove damage to either business or reputation). Therefore, it is a matter of ethics rather than law, and it is usually left up to the involved industries and institutions to police it. That's us.

Personally, had I been the shafted clients I would have sued, but the rest is up to us as an industry to set right. I am always for the "shades of gray" approach, but this is pretty black and white. He admitted to plagiarism last year, then there was more, new plagiarism on his website this year.

Furthermore, this is not about "punishment", but deciding who and what values should represent our industry in the future. Nobody is calling for monetary fines, just that we, as an industry, no longer give him a platform from which to represent us.

Mark Kelly's picture

Im undecided Ill wait a while to see how it pans out. When I was getting back into photography from a long break a couple of years ago I found creative live and one of the first broadcasts I saw was Doug's. I thought he was funny and didn't take himself too seriously. He has built a large studio form a mom and pop outfit. I agree with Nick's comment below he has over stretched himself and let others do things he should have. I hope he takes steps to make amends in a humble and genuine way to those he has not delivered what he promised to in regards to the wedding's. Im sure he will still be making money from photography for many years to come. He is a bit of an unstoppable force.

Cody Ash's picture

You really can't come back from this. Lots of other stuff has surfaced in between as well. his name shall be torched in my book. glad he is not listed as an ambassador to Nikon, not the behavior we want to see. really looks bad to hard working, honest photographers.

Connor Katz's picture

I have never heard of this guy before. But it seems strange that this guy even has a following, the images on his website are very average.

Brian Reed's picture

Here in Colorado we had a photographer years ago who kept stealing images from National Geographic and posting them all over the place as his work. The community here in Colorado finally got him finished for good.

In my book, Doug Gordon has essentially done the same thing, only on a Grandiose scale and as such, he should be shut down as well. It is like the old adage, "Screw me over once, shame on me. Screw me over twice, shame on YOU!"

Cancel this guy and revoke everything from him. Ban him from the world of Photography, FOREVER!

james johnson's picture

I think you got that backwards. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

It means that anyone can fall victim to fraud once, but afterwards the victim should be more vigilant.

Jason Autry's picture

I've always thought him to be a slim-ball, just listen to him speak for 10 min, and it clear! He's gotta go!

Crystal Pommet's picture

Thank you for writing about this. I personally find his actions and attitude offensive and I hope that people who have been victimized by him sue the pants off him. Nikon should be shamed over and over for knowingly keeping him in the public eye as a professional. Yes he should be ousted and this information should be passed around as much as possible, posted outside of his studios and circulated often to make sure he no longer takes advantage of innocent people.

Charles Coleman's picture

Unfortunately another example of how the wrong people make it sometimes.

Matt Allan's picture

It's people like this that make it hard for the rest of us out there all working hard to produce original content. I don't know if there is a legal precident for having him charged under breach of copyright etc but personally I have no time for people like this.

I feel devastated for the clients he may have conned or strong-armed along the way but the photography community should cerainly turn it's back on this guy. Fool me once...

Jackson Alves's picture

I want to correct an inaccuracy in this article, and to be honest, I am disappointed that Photo Stealers have not come forward and done the right thing by correcting in themselves.

Photo Stealers did not expose or find the second case of plagiarism.

It was first exposed on a Facebook post by Missy MWAC, she did an open letter to Sal Cincotta about how she was disappointed in Sal giving Doug a spot on his speakers table at his conference.

On that post, that had a large number of comments, someone posted the copy of the plagiarised About me.

It was in reference to Sal saying that he wanted to give DG a second chance and he believed he had changed.

What Photo Stealers does for this industry is great, but they did not expose DG this time, they just took the information another person found and posted it to a wider audience.

Kudos need to go to Missy MWAC who has kept up the spotlight on these fraudstars and calls out the industry.

At the end of the day, we the public, have to be more disconcerting on who we give our education dollars to.

If someone is telling you that they run a successful studio and shoot 50 weddings a year but their workshop schedule leaves you wondering how they could possibly do both, then question it!!!

If someone is giving business advice and educating you on how to run a successful photography business being a photographer, then ask them where the majority of their income comes from.

If most of it comes from running workshops, then their advice is only relevant if you are going into the business of workshops.

If they are not making their money being a photographer, then why would you take a business course in running a photography business from them???

Only seek out education from those who have a proven track record, and I can almost guarantee, you will not find them on the speaker circuit but in the big wide world taking photos of actual REAL clients.

james johnson's picture

All that information is in the original article on Photostealers. They do not take credit for the discovery, but they did a lot of leg work to verify it and get comments from those involved.

Inta Gansone's picture

you would think one with his experience and connections would not need to steal....

Juraj Dorko's picture

Recently I saw a video of Jerry Ghionis talking about posing. In the 2 hours or so, I got a very good impression of him. Very natural and funny guy. Eager to learn more, I looked up more videos on posing and found one from Doug Gordon. Never seen him before. He turned me off after having spoken the first 4 words - came down the stairs, looked at the camera, pretended to be surprised, said "Oh, you're here?", and gave a fake smile. I thought, "What a stupid, cheesy way to start a video." Quite the opposite feeling that I got from Jerry Ghionis. However, I tried to keep watching, the comments under the video suggested this guy must be pretty good. My first impression only got worse, I started to skip parts of the video trying to find "the good stuff", and eventually, I couldn't do it. I just couldn't listen to this guy. Instead of focusing on the information, I kept being distracted by his presence, the way he spoke, the way he interacted with the models, who, btw, in his hands were like the wax figures from Madame Tussauds' museum.
Now I know why I got that feeling.

James Jenkins's picture

Treats his clients like crap? Unabashedly steals from other photographer...repeatedly?

Blacklist this bastard and make an example out of him. No more speaking engagements, no more sponsors for his workshops. Put him on an island.

Karma Wilson's picture

Okay, as bad as I want to feel for that couple, I have a hard time because I went to Gordon's website and saw the samples he posts as best, and I can't imagine anybody hiring him in the first place. It seems reasonable that a student photographer with a 15 yr old assistant could get better photos. But maybe some people like feeling disoriented looking at ridiculous tilts, and appreciate wildly uneven and unflattering light?

And that is not to say I am some superior photographer, because I am not, which is why I refer to myself honestly as an amateur and a photography assistant. :)

Edited to add: Really, I don't get why he didn't nab a few decent photos from others while he was copy and pasting their words. lol

Christopher McRae's picture

Sadly some people find it easy to cheat and steal. When there is a million photographers fighting for a chance to be on top, and people like this are in that spotlight, it makes me sick. I have no problem with forgiveness, and yes I believe at some point Doug should be forgiven, BUT, I think his time on the big stage should be over. Fool me once...fool me twice. Good luck Doug, your going to need it.

Orpheus Anonymous's picture

Yes? Well, actually YES! One of my biggest surprises is how long it took Nikon to stand up and do the right thing.
But the thing is the average customer doesn't even know half of what this guy is or is not capable of and he'll probably continue to get contracts signed and people will continue to get scammed. Could we benefit from a "do not hire" list of photographers such as Mr. Bro Gordon?

Ralph Berrett's picture

If I had ever Plagiarized a photo or story at a newspaper not only would I have been fired my career as a photojournalist would have been over. I would have been blackballed and rightfully so.

I have zero tolerance for Plagiarism. He should never be hire to right an article or teach a workshop. I am not saying banning him as a photographer but he should never write for any publication, speak at a conference or teach a workshop again.

Chris Adval's picture

I was checking up on doug via google, and on his workshops website on upcoming workshops last update was for an August 2014 workshop. Can't seem to find another primary website for his work. Looks like we convinced him to change his name or to quit entirely. Anyone have insight, just curious.

Catherine Lanuez's picture

Yes he should be banned from speaking at any event. As well as not be allowed to teach at any studio. This guy reminds me of this other photographer who was doing the same thing. And was being a complete ass with all his clients. This guy is ridiculous and should be ashamed of himself.

meloen fotografie's picture

He is onair now at creativelive.com i have send the a link of this article.

Rafael Sotomayor's picture

He came to Puerto Rico many years ago to do a seminar. I didn’t went but as I knew he said that his Studio in NY do weddings since Thursday to Sunday for $5,000 each wedding and he had 3 staff photographers. But he do weddings at the same time for $15,000 for wedding thru Thursday to Friday and $20,000 for Sunday ones.
I wasn’t there but Id love to asked how the Fuck he came a weekend to PR for do a seminar for $3,000?
This guy was always a liar, I told Thai to the local associations but nothing happened. Looks now, time gave me the reason.