Should The Photography Industry Turn Its Back on Doug Gordon?

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]

Log in or register to post comments

44 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.

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.

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.

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???

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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.