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The Sad Tale of Jasmine Star and Doug Gordon

jasminestar

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.


 
  • http://lantosistvan.com/ Lantos István

    Wait! Not original tweets!? Please exit from the industry, when you making double exposure, backlighting, film emulation or fancy packaging for the couples… “Everyone is copying.” This is not absolve those two, but remember, you also copying a lifestyle, to market your business. Originality ended 80-100 years ago.

  • Nicholas Gonzalez

    There are only so many ways to teach the same thing. And most photographers who took a workshop eventually teach others and are going to say the very thing that worked and inspired them. If a teacher says the same thing that their teacher before them once said, is that plaigarism? Perhaps if one sold that line as their own, but to be fair to Jasmine Star, she is sharing what works for her, for free. If she put those words in a book and it matched another photographer’s book, then I would consider that plagiarism.

  • mairandi

    That apology was pathetic.

  • http://www.jamesfarley.co.uk/ James Farley

    About time they both got pushed firmly off their pedestal, average photographers who have a knack for marketing and fleecing the sheep that follow their every word.

    Think a few people only have half the story also, with Jasmine this was not about the tweets, she gave a disingenuous apology for that, and then got caught ripping off someone elses blog post(s) a couple of weeks ago.

  • http://pabloardila.weebly.com/ Pablo Ardila

    So what’s the story here? She sent out some vapid tweets that weren’t her own ideas – even though they’re in widespread circulation? You don’t like her marketing? Has her photography been bought into question? I mean she’s a photographer – No? I hate the term rockstar, except for well, a musician, who plays rock. It appears to me that far too often people are pushed to the top because of how good their PR or marketing is – not based on the quality of their work. I have no idea if it’s a recent thing but there seems to be a class of photographers who are not photographs but rather teachers preaching to be photographers. There’s nothing wrong with being a teacher but there has to be an understanding that there’s a difference between making it and telling someone else how they can make it. I know that’s a pretty wide brush. People like Zack Arias are teaches and photographers but he’s very open about telling people he’s not the messiah, he’s just climbing the hill like the rest of you. I found it amusing that one of the ‘calling out jasmine’ pieces you linked to had piece from Gary Fong – the guy who tells you you can improve your photography with a Tupperware box over your flash.

    Most of me really just thinks – who cares. Listen to those you trust, judge people on their work and go after your own creative ideas.

  • Woody ONeal

    Tupperware…that was funny

  • mansgame, yo

    I agree with you about Gary Fong. His tupperware junk do very little to make pictures better and in many cases make it worse by wasting flash power so I don’t have too much respect for his contributions to photography either.

    With Zack, if you listen to him closely, every now and then he takes a subtle jab at those who are famous without having paid their dues so to speak. Sometimes he gets too depressing to be honest when he goes on his rants about paying to feed his family etc, but he is a good teacher and a good photographer.

  • http://www.bobcooleyphoto.com/ bob cooley

    Well, that’s the point here, she’s being judged on the value of OTHER people’s work. Don’t dismiss educational writing that others have created as being less valuable a commodity than photographs. When you steal other people’s writing and pass it off as your own, it the same as stealing someone else’s photography and passing it off as your own…

  • http://pabloardila.weebly.com/ Pablo Ardila

    Got to admit I believe I heard the Tupperware thing from David Hobby – wow this plagiarism thing is tough.

  • http://pabloardila.weebly.com/ Pablo Ardila

    from the links above she’s being judged on some tweets, tweets that have very little to do with photography. Now they might have boosted her following but they didn’t alter my opinion of her photography

  • Zak Holman

    Surprise, the answer is YES.

  • Burnin Biomass

    There were some instances from her regular website also I guess…

    http://stopstealingphotos.tumblr.com/post/62349882928/jasmine-star

  • Gary Martin

    True..Very average work compared to some.

  • Burnin Biomass
  • Gary Martin

    +1

  • Rabi Abonour

    Jasmine Star sells her brand. It doesn’t matter if she isn’t directly selling her blog posts; she is still, in the end, benefiting from stealing someone else’s work.

  • mevanecek

    I’ve never actually heard that. Every instructor I’ve seen, when talking about business, has always said that your work needs to stand up, if you’re going to charge the prices you need to, to survive. I’d be interested to know, who is telling you that quality of work does not matter, so I could make sure and avoid taking workshops/buying courses from that/those people.

    Business is business, whether it’s photography or painting or plumbing. How well you sell yourself is a large part of running a successful business. But word of shoddy work gets around real quick, so you better have quality of work to accompany sales of self…

  • harumph

    I think the outrage is about the instructional blog posts that she copied. The tweets were just presented as further evidence that this was her basic operating procedure. Her apology on her private facebook page admits to plagiarizing 2 blog posts, but people have found more than that.

  • dbltapp

    This is VERY well written.

  • harumph

    It’s the instructional blog posts that she copied from a few other photographers that are the main issue here, not the tweets. The tweets just offer evidence that this was her standard operating procedure. She admitted to plagiarizing two blog posts, but people discovered more before she even made her apology.

  • harumph

    Plus she admitted to copying those blog posts, so it’s a little late to mount a defense of her actions.

  • harumph

    The article isn’t very clear on anything, but it’s the instructional blog posts that she lifted from other photographers that are the cause of the uproar. She admitted to copying two, but people have found others. The tweets just show that this is a pattern with her.

  • Rob Elliott

    When I wrote this Burnin was kind enough to link to actual info, rather then some tweets. So My opinion is significantly different now, as there is less paraphrasing and more direct lifting in some. All of it falls under plagiarizm for sure.

    The Blog stuff makes my thoughts different, and I’m torn a little on it. The question that I don’t have an answer for is, does she make most of her money on weddings, on speaking, or is it an even split. If she is still a working photog, then I’m less inclined to support dropping her as she has re-world experience to offer, and the issue doesn’t remove that fact. If she is now making a majority or a significant portion of her income from Speaking then this raise into question the legitimacy of her voice in that realm.

    I saw her on Mostlyphoto/Twit Photo while that was on, as that show was my entry into photography, and I’ve followed her but most of her posts are kinda meh, so I don’t think I’d go see her speak anyway

  • Rob Elliott

    Thanks for sharing this, the article here didn’t make mention of that, and I didn’t find this info through a half hearted search. It changes things a little.

  • K.B.

    It really bothers me that people refer to disappointment over plagiarism as “hate.” I was inspired by Jasmine during her CreativeLive sessions and even purchased a few items from her. But I’m really sad she didn’t cite her sources, therefore ripping off intellectual property to build her brand.

  • http://www.bobcooleyphoto.com/ bob cooley

    Then dig a little deeper. She’s been plagiarizing other photographers and educators writings. And frankly her photography is mediocre at best. If you view her intro pages, all of the images are shot with models to make the photos more attractive (and in a lot of them, the real chemistry between a real couple is absent), her framing is sloppy, and most of her horizons aren’t event (and not stylistically, they are just poorly leveled) – when you get into the galleries of the actual weddings she’s shot (or normal looking people (the non-setup shots sans models) her actual wedding imagery is lackluster.

    Which isn’t surprising; when you spend most of your time marketing and selling yourself as an educator, and don’t have a ton of real experience, you don’t have the time to perfect your craft.

  • http://www.bobcooleyphoto.com/ bob cooley

    If she posts someone else’s educational content without permission or license, its the same as posting someone else’s photos and claiming them as her own. Just because it’s writing doesn’t make it acceptable.

  • Zak Holman

    Who ever use plagiarism, that person is a fake. No respect of any kind in any way.

    Taking some else work and passing them off as one’s own is simply low. Come on …

  • http://www.foggodyssey.com/ foggodyssey

    Anyone want to bet you won’t see this article on fStoppers.com???? You know how they like to play favorites over there (esp to her).

  • Tim

    As far as i know she outsources all her post-processing too. So she basically turns up on the day, sprays 1000′s of photos at the event and then washes her hands of all the work. It wouldn’t surprise me if she had people to meet the couple and sort the albums out too while she moves onto the next wedding. She is a very clever businesswoman who is very good at marketing herself (as are a lot of internet photographers coming up online, Trey Ratcliffe for example the one-trick HDR pony who i used to like a lot) but i would not take a photography lesson off these people, Marketing yes, photography…..not so much.

  • Rabi Abonour

    To be fair, plenty of photographers outsource their post work. If are more interested in shooting than processing and can afford to send your work to a pro, then why not?

  • Vin Weathermon

    At least she is better looking than Doug Gordon while she’s plagiarizing.

  • harumph
  • bh

    I once submitted my fine art photography to a good gallery here in Los Angeles. It did not get accepted. The next year, when they were looking again, I submitted the same exact images, but framed in a more contemporary (read: trendy) way and I got accepted. Sadly, people *are* swayed by things other than just the work – even people who should know better.

    Also irritating, but this is just me whinging, is when I see fine art photographer pals of a similar caliber make huge strides because they are able to afford to go to the portfolio reviews, enter endless contests etc etc.

    To a degree it really IS pay to play, sadly.

  • SFP

    Ugh, people like you are playing a name of telephone that’s both juvenile and pathetic. Jasmine Star is her first and middle name. Before you decide to jump on the witch hunt because you’ve become so enamored with the fact that someone who’s younger and more successful than you messed up, hows about you turn off your computer, and throw it out the window.

    Jesus, at least *try* to use the keyboard to search before you spew inept comments.

  • http://www.bobcooleyphoto.com/ bob cooley

    You would think that if she sent it or for professional post, at least her horizons would be level and the images would have full tonality -both are lacking in her samples.

  • http://www.bobcooleyphoto.com/ bob cooley

    Well, it appears that she did plenty of that searching with her keyboard, then stole and plagiarized a lot of other educators content to claim as her own and build her business – “success” through theft is the same type of success that any criminal achieves…

  • http://www.foggodyssey.com/ foggodyssey

    Nice, she writes her own article about it (nothing biased there)! lol So just to be clear, she steals content from others and uses it on her OWN website, then uses ANOTHER website to say sorry after the fact (several months later)?

    Yup, nothing wrong with that, totally normal and up-and-up… hell that’s how all apologies should work. I steal $20 from you out of your car, then go to my local banker and tell him I’m sorry for stealing it while I make the deposit! lol lol lol

  • Kynikos

    Precisely.

  • http://www.bobcooleyphoto.com/ bob cooley
  • http://www.bobcooleyphoto.com/ bob cooley
  • Grethe Rosseaux

    Wow. Is this YouTube circa 2002?

  • Grethe Rosseaux

    You know, you speak a whole lot of truth. These days, photographers market their lives instead of their work and people buy into it. It’s ridiculous – there are SO MANY “photographer’s lifestyle blogs” out there with MASSIVE followings, despite the fact that the photographer’s work is distinctly average.

  • Hannah Millard

    Actually the post on her facebook page was only about the tweets and not about the ripped off instructional blog posts which were still up at the time and hadn’t been discovered yet.

  • Al Borrelli

    It’s true.. that’s why these folks who are more marketers/advertisers than photographers are so successful, and I don’t fault them for that. The problem is them having to live up to their own legend which they craft over a period of time that they can’t fall behind.. so they resort to stealing to keep up. Hacks.

  • Angela

    August 16th was for the Twiiter reposts as her own. It was after that time when she was caught ripping off entire sections from other blog posts that really made people upset. Even after all of the backlash she ripped off a fall meme and posted it on her blog with a few words changed. A few years back she had another photographer’s images representing her workshop. So one apology for ripping off tweets does not cover her reoccurring plagiarism.

  • D. Brent Walton

    So, did you guys have Jasmine’s permission to use her video on your post?

  • nick

    She stole that apology from another blog.

  • Dont_Be_A_Dick

    Terms of usage agreed when uploading videos to youtube.

  • pincherio

    I’m thinking of starting a photo blog and it looks like I have 2 good sources who won’t mind if I “borrow” their articles. (Please, please, please note the sarcasm)