WASHINGTON • Singer Taylor Swift and actor Tom Hiddleston's very sudden and very public parade of love - from Rhode Island to Nashville to England to Italy - has raised eyebrows around the world. She is due for a new album; he wants to be James Bond. Yeah, seems about right.
While Swift has had a slew of high-profile relationships with celebrities, from actor Jake Gyllenhaal to musician Calvin Harris, her public displays of affection are a relatively new phenomenon.
The Internet went ballistic two weeks ago when The Sun released photos of Swift and Hiddleston making out on a rock in Rhode Island. Since then, the Web has been flooded with pictures of the couple kissing, cuddling and handholding all over the globe as they dance at a Selena Gomez concert, tour the Colosseum and meet each other's parents on the beach.
Are they really that in love? Is it publicity? Is it, as gossip blog Dlisted suggested, a "performance art piece and Taylor's artistic commentary on how her relationships are perceived by the media"?
One thing is certain: For photographers and photo agencies, this Hiddleswift situation is a gold mine - especially when they arrive in small towns.
Mr Dan Taylor, head of sales at photo agency Xposure, said: "If it's in the centre of the city, then you're going to have a lot more photographers working on it. If it's off the beaten track, you have less competition and it's a little easier to make the job worthwhile financially."
The photos have been generating so much Web traffic that publications are fighting one another to get exclusive rights, said Mr Thibault Mauvilain, head of licensing at photo news agency FameFlynet.
Or clients are willing to pay big money to have the photos under embargo for, say, 72 hours, which means no one else can run them for that period of time. "We're seeing the numbers skyrocket," he said.
The best part for photographers and agencies, besides the money? All the photos have been fairly simple to obtain. When Swift met Hiddleston's mother in the small seaside town of Ipswich, England, the couple did not appear to mind that photographers were following them around.
"It's only as easy as they allow it to be," Mr Ken Goff of Goff Photos said, explaining the challenges of photographing stars. "Because if they had gone there and stayed in the house and not come out, that's as hard as it can be. It depends on the subject and how much they don't want to be photographed."
Swift, like many stars, frequently has issues with the paparazzi; once, she hiked an entire trail backwards so photographers could not get a shot of her face. These days, however, she does not look fazed by photographers - and some industry veterans say that is unusual.
"She seems like she's very much wanting to parade her new man to the world, which is quite strange for her," Mr Taylor said. "On a regular day, that's not her personality as far as I know, or as far as I've seen."
Meanwhile, the couple were last spotted at the Vatican on Wednesday. None of the agencies would confirm how they find out where Hiddleswift will be next - The Image Direct, which first snapped the photos of the couple on the Rhode Island beach, declined to comment.
"To the naysayers, I can confirm @TheSun's world exclusive pictures of Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston were NOT set up," tweeted The Sun associate editor Dan Wootton.