The Sad Tale of Jasmine Star and Doug Gordon


There are few photo conferences where the enthusiasm is palpable – where everyone from the doe-eyed to the veteran clamors for pearls of wisdom from an accomplished speaker roster. That’s the reality at WPPI where 13,000 wedding and portrait photographers descend upon Las Vegas in the early Spring. Unlike the run-of-the-mill photo conference, this one is filled with people looking to be inspired, and ready to carve a path in the business of photography. It is the conference of optimists and exuberance. I thoroughly enjoy it.

Jasmine Star was one of those names that would fill rooms with hundred, if not thousands of people. People counted on her anecdotes and words of wisdom to inspire their own photography. She is a rockstar in the wedding photography market – an internet famous, master marketer with good looks and an authentic demeanor that seemed perfectly suited for her audience.

But over the past few weeks, her integrity and authenticity have come into question as allegations of plagiarism in her writing and tweeting have surfaced in some pretty unambiguous ways. These revelations come on the heels of similar findings in the writings of Doug Gordon, another workshop rockstar.

With the amount of content that the two produce, it’s almost inevitable that something they say will sound similar to someone else. We all read the same blogs and industry websites, and this exposure undoubtedly affects the ideation of our thoughts and opinions over time. A few similar thoughts might be coincidental. But a slew of nearly verbatim posts is inexplicable, and it forces us to question everything. Did they really write that inspiring quote? How did they get so funny? Did Doug Gordon really license a Jason Mraz song for his website?

As the din of the allegations have grown louder, a group calling themselves “Photographers with Ethics” has started an online petition to drop both speakers from the 2014 WPPI conference. Conference director Jason Groupp has, to his credit, publicly stated that they are looking very closely at the matter and listening to all the feedback they are getting from their audience.

Power and fame are addictive. Seeing a torrent of “Likes” the moment you post an Instagram feels validating. Reading hundreds or thousands of retweets of every word you utter is like crack. And SEO algorithms actually reward content creators who yield this type of response on social media. So I can understand how it happens. I certainly don’t condone, nor do I justify the behavior, but I get it.

I also get that these photographers employ staff who ghostwrite pieces on their behalf, and perhaps there is a very logical explanation about an intern who swiped a blog entry or a tweet because their boss told them to create some content.

But when two top educators in the wedding photography field are caught in a web of plagiarism, there is an institutional problem that must be addressed. Doug apparently had a half-assed apology in July on his Facebook page that has since disappeared, and Jasmine hasn’t issued any statement whatsoever. Their behavior reflects poorly on every other photographer who is trying to carve a niche through education [disclosure: I served on a panel at WPPI 2013]. And it sucks all the good will out of the conference hall.

So let me join the chorus of critics calling for their dismissal from WPPI. No explanation or apology this late in the game will be good enough. WPPI has the power to take away Jasmine and Doug’s biggest platform while taking a stand for credibility and intellectual property. It’s the right thing to do, and the right thing for the business.

About the author: Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and Co-founder of PhotoShelter. Allen is a graduate of Yale University, and flosses daily. This article originally appeared here.

  • Uncle G

    Jasmine did leave a short apology on her reSTARt fb page, but it is a closed group.

  • Er

    If it’s not a public apology, it doesn’t count in my opinion. Someone with 87,000+ Facebook fans shouldn’t be afraid to share her apology if she really means it..

  • Boston Wedding Photographer

    It’s hard to tel the trees from the forest in regards to those that are this famous. I tend to ignore the famous and do my own thing. What works for one, doesn’t mean it will work for all. So i see no point in following these types anyway.

  • phroto

    is this about photography? I don’t see nay photos.

  • quintessential

    I think this whole article was ripped off from another source.

  • Melinda M. Golden

    Jasmine did apologize on her Facebook page: “Over the past two days, I’ve moved into a new house and life has been crazy. It was also during this time that the things on the web in the photo industry turned upside down. What I discovered, in a wild current of uprising, I let people down with my social media interactions. For this, I apologize. I disappointed people and there’s no other way to put it.
    I made a MISTAKE and I take full ownership…all I ask for is forgiveness. And grace.

    If there’s anything I’ve learned from this experience is that things need to change. I need to change…I want to get back to the real me. The only thing I ask is that if you know me, if we’re peers, if we’re friends, then allow me the chance to use future interactions to define who I am.

    For those who have stood up for me, thank you. I don’t take it as an endorsement of my behavior, but as hope for what you want the photo world to become: a space on the web for people to learn from the mistakes they made.”

    Not that I agree with what she did, but thought I would help clear that up.

  • Tony B

    If either one of them blame a ghostwriter at this late date it would be total BS. Someone with integrity would have done that at the first accusation.

  • GP

    Ever see Doug Gordon live? He is more car salesman than photographer so this doesn’t surprise me one bit.

  • zed

    I’m a slutty ‘tog. Would you like to massage my vagine? I have auto white balance. PM me!

  • Shade of grey

    Yes. Well said. Now get back in the kitchen.

  • meth

    No. I’m pretty confident I would never see these people speak in person. Even if I was at an event where these persons speak in person. Lalalalalalalalalalalalala………

  • Burnin Biomass

    I’m trying to find that on her Facebook page, and I cant. Do you happen to know what day she posted it on to help narrow my search? Thanks!

  • Melinda M. Golden

    August 16th

  • pixeljammer

    How is knowingly stealing a mistake?
    Oops, I pushed Granny down the stairs. Sorry, it was a mistake.
    “Mistake” requires accident. “Bad action” is intentional.

  • Burnin Biomass

    Found it, thank you!

  • Jodie Holstein Otte

    So, curious, didn’t I see her selling her story as a book for $23? Where did I see that?

  • Lubyanka

    Hard for me to figure out how the literally uncountable number of thefts over such an extended time frame can be called “a” mistake.

    If Jasmine is apologising for “a” mistake (if indeed they all were, each and every one), what about the huge bunches of other ones she neglected to mention?

    Then again, in my opinion the logic which allows for committing that kind of theft is also likely to feel sorry only for getting caught. She had bunches of opportunities to stop, and, um, didn’t.

    So, no, not buying that apology.

  • guest

    Why single these two out, there is a long line of rock star photographers that are little more than snake oil salesmen.

  • Andrew Iverson

    Isn’t that what most successful photographers are anyway? I keep being told it’s more the business and marketing side of photography than it is about actually taking photos. Not saying it’s “right”, but it does seem to be true.

  • Zak Holman

    Jasmine Star photographer? To me she is a picture taker. Anyone can be the same. The camera cost $1000.00 and what she does? Is definitely not a rocket science.

  • Mansgame, yo

    10 years ago, photographers took photographs. It’s amazing, I know. Then as more people had access to affordable DSLR cameras and a new market was created, all of a sudden photographers started having workshops and DVD’s. At first, this was done by reputable and proven photographers and teachers – The David Hobby, Joe Mcnally, and Bryan Petersons of the world to name a few favorites.

    Around the same time, other photographers started marketing not their photography or skills, but themselves and acting like they were Madonna *cough* Chase Jarvis. Dude has gone full GaGa where in most videos he’s either in black and white, has a DJ playing background music while he talks, or some combination of both. Fair enough, Chase’s photography is brilliant though it’s commercial so it’s hard to guess whether they were his ideas or the clients’.

    Shortly after that, the flood gates were opened and anybody who’s ever owned for a couple of years having workshops. Sure, some are good like Zack Arias, but then you had people like Jasmine Star, annoying couples, etc. local guys, national guys, and others who had very average photography with very little background or experience in photography holding workshops and essentially downplaying the actual photography and telling you how to make money like they did. Fancy lenses?? Pfft, just shoot the whole wedding with your 85mm 1.2 Skills?? Nah, just smile really big and act like you know everything.

    Eventually, that’s going to come back to bite you.

  • Mike

    AWB? better use protection, then. You might start shooting JPEG after meeting this slutty ‘tog.

  • Dozy

    Please, in a nutshell: What is “sad” and who is the woman in the picture above?

  • jkantor267

    The bigger problem is scamming people into thinking they can have careers as wedding photographers.

  • Zakaria Mughal

    dear Melinda, H R U ??

  • harumph

    Click a link or two. It’s all there.

  • Zak Holman

    You are absolutely correct. Some of those newbies with DSLR’s on expensive aka/Gitzo tripods make ( believe me or not ) a millions of $$$. Due to theirs PR skills not work they show.

    Problem is, that in nowadays people do not know what good photography is

  • junyo

    When did Tony Robbins start wearing dresses?

  • bh

    But she is so good looking! (Sarcasm)

  • bob cooley

    Because, if you RTFA, you would see that the main complaint is that they plagiarized countless educational articles and passed them off as their own writing. That’s just as heinous as claiming you shot someone else’s photos…

  • bh

    So sad that great images seem to be the last thing that photographers are urged to think about in the current day. Countless times I have been told (by blogs) that the quality of work has zero importance and how you sell yourself is everything. Sadly, this has led to clients also not trusting their own guts when they choose photographers. Which leads inevitably to snake oil (and good looking) salespeople like Ms Star.

  • bob cooley

    The only mistake she is apologizing for is getting caught.

    Had she not been outed, do you really think she would be having this moment of epiphany?

  • Jeffrey Lee

    I don’t know much about Ms. Star, but I’ve seen some Doug Gordon videos and I could never understand the appeal. The basis of his technique seems to be repeating the same setups at every wedding. I’m not really a fan of making every event and every couple fit in with a cookie cutter approach, nor did I find any of the poses he used that interesting. Can’t say I’m that broken up that he also turned out to be ripping off other people’s work.

  • Bubba

    This woman KNOWINGLY steals and then a simple I’m sorry on Facebook is supposed to make it all better? WOW you people must think the world of her. She’s ripping you guys off. Taking enormous amounts of money from people for what? She has shown her true colors. EVERYTHING she says or does should be in question now.

  • Bubba

    All she’s asking for is a “please don’t stop giving me money”. She has lost all credit leith anyone serious in this biz.

  • Rob Elliott

    Did I miss something? is there something more then little tweet level things that she lifted from other little tweets?

    Retweeting is the right thing, but nothing she “stole” is original to those people either most of them are fairly modern idioms I’ve heard most of them in the past in one form or another.

    I’m not saying it is right but it’s not really worth cancelling a speaking engagement over.

  • bob cooley

    with apologies to female photographers who actually are talented…

  • gochugogi

    As a college educator I’m teaching a generation that regards stealing music, video, software, ebooks and prose 100% socially acceptable. Plagiarism is punishable by expulsion but is so widespread we usually just funk the student. Jasmine looks young enough to have caught the first wave of this dark trend. The culture of stealing intellectual property is so ingrained those apprehended are usually only sorry they got caught. She knew exactly what she was doing.

  • foggodyssey

    You know I had seen that on Facebook when she posted it and I couldn’t make heads or tails what she was saying (I didn’t know about the whole drama of her stealing material). Now that I know what it was meant for, that’s a pretty weak apology! It was so vague, I thought she was talking about a mid-life crises she was personally having (working to much and not paying enough attention to friends and family).

    If you apologize you state why and you back it up, not be coy… just saying.

  • Photoman831

    Jasmine issued an apology on her FB page shortly after she was outed. That comment in this article is inaccurate

  • Rob Simpson

    What I find funny is that as photographers aren’t we always doing everything we can to protect our copyrights and safeguard against stolen images? How is stealing words any different?

  • Djalma Reis

    It’s only a mistake if you get caught. If you do not, it’s…nothing. Business as usual.

  • Djalma Reis


  • stevengrosas

    It was.

  • stevengrosas

    This is exactly what I was saying, most of them are fairly modern idioms I’ve heard most of them in the past in one form or another and everyone has copied and pasted qoutes on twitter and or their Fb status.

  • stevengrosas

    Sigh, I guess the blogs have been boring lately and people need something to complain about. I’m sure plenty have plagiarized, including people who are commenting here as well.The industry as a whole is corrupt
    and full of devious photographers, yes even famous ones. If they ban these two then they
    should have a trial and witch hunt for all speakers that have spoken both in the past and present.

  • ssphillips

    “I want to get back to the real me.”

    So is she going to start using her real name?

  • the dude

    It’s called “Syndicated” or more correctly, re-production with credit. The author have value from the exposure and PP gets a quick article. Basically 90% of PP is a re-post from another source.

  • wayne.carroll

    Did anyone ever know what “good photography” is? Really? When?

  • SteveA

    Why all the hate? She only repeated a few jokes. The reaction seems hugely out of proportion.