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My Response to the Defamatory Review

This is not a post I ever wanted to have to write, nor a situation I ever thought I would face. But in order to keep beliefs and facts straight in such a serious accusation, it needs to be done and it needs to be shared.

I never thought someone could share such hurtful lies to try to ruin someones passion and name, and for what? Their own personal gain somehow? And to go so far as to write such a defamatory review, I can’t say I will ever understand. There is a lot to cover in this post; with the proof I have in order to shine a light on the truth and show why I am so suspicious of this claim. Which is that I am not responsible for a past clients baby having allegedly stopped breathing the morning following our session. As I said, this is likely to be long, so that no little detail in such a serious accusation is missed.

 

The Beginning

I need to preface with a little backstory. This session took place back in August of 2015 and I did know the mother previously; as we attended the same high school. I met with her for a pre-consultation to essentially sell myself and what I had to offer, as one with a product or service must do. I felt that we hit it off and she seemed so very sweet, understanding and had a vibrant personality. It appeared that she liked what I was offering and although it came to my attention that money could be an issue, I didn’t want it to be a wall keeping her from having beautiful memories of her newborn child. And so I offered a payment plan that would allow her to receive her order only after it was paid up in full, for obvious reasons. If she had her images, then there would be no reason for her to keep up with her payments. I discussed this with her in person at the pre-consult, in writing on the release form/contract she signed, as well as through text message; that I would not be able to release any images to her until her order was paid for in full. She expressed such excitement for the session in the days leading up, thanked me for a wonderful session afterwards and continued with happiness and praise the days following the session when I shared a sneak peek image to her.

Now I do feel that my work and the images that I produce are above average and because of that I do feel that the investment should be worth the time and knowledge that I put into my craft. I have spent countless hours learning from some of the greatest newborn photographers through online and in person workshops, investing in the best equipment I thought I needed to be successful and growing my prop closet so that I could offer each client something unique and different. However, I wouldn’t be able to do all that by charging a ‘shoot and burner’ rate. My prices were not cheap, but they were also not astronomical and I tried to create options for everyone. This client chose the smallest of two types of sessions, rendering the session fee to be $125.00 for my time, talent and her in-person sales session. This did not include prints or digital images, which would later be chosen at her in-person sales appointment. I only bring this up to touch on, as she does complain in her review and personal message to me about the investment.

As I outlined earlier, we did the session on August 7, 2015. Everything went great and I had her images ready to go for her in-person sales session within a week. I tried on many occasions to bring her in for her ordering appointment, but time and again nothing panned out. Fast forward to October 2015. Thanksgiving is coming and she would like to have something to show at the family get-together. Because no ordering session has taken place and no payments have been made, I could not release any images to her. I did however offer to send a link to a video slideshow, so that they could see the gallery that way, but I received no response back in that regard. By the end of October I have tried on at least 5 occasions to set something up to no avail and one no show appointment, and by the end of it she seems thoroughly annoyed and expresses that she is upset that she couldn’t have any prints unless full payment was made.  I didn’t really understand what was going on, nor did I want to continue to add to her frustration any further by asking her to find the time for her appointment. And so I left it there and hoped that she would come to me when she was ready.

 

The Allegations Come to Light

We now jump to March 3, 2016 and I still remember waking up to a scathing Facebook message with such frightening threats and accusations. My first thought was “Oh my god, what did I do? I had NO idea!” My stomach sank and I could not believe I had caused such harm. But then I quickly got my thoughts together and could see the holes in her story. I will start by sharing and working through a few parts that just don’t add up to me.

I had, and in all honesty still do have, absolute full intentions of working out a payment plan with her. But the starting point was her sales session so that I knew exactly what her order would be and we could figure out how much she would like to put towards her invoice per month and when. I had my hands tied until then. I tried on numerous occasions to get her in for her ordering appointment. Although she doesn’t see it that way, I really did try. But it got to the point where I needed to stop chasing her and take the loss if it came to that (if she chose not to make an order).

I will touch more on this later in the post, as these allegations are more prominent in the review she left for me. But please make note that she says in this message that her baby stopped breathing the night following the session, while her most recent review claims that it happened the morning after the shoot.

She claims there were cuts all over her babies body from the props I used. But as you can see from the prop line up I happened to post on Instagram the day of our session, everything is soft and there is nothing remotely scratchy. I pad for comfort. Not to mention the raw images show no signs of any cuts or scraps. And you will see that she drops this accusation in the review she posted online.

The conversation goes on from here, where I try to explain my viewpoint on the situation, that I don’t see how I could be at fault and that I feel she is trying to scare and bully me with this story to receive her images for free. The conversation ends with me asking her to have her lawyer email me for my address, but I never received any further contact from anyone.

 

She Tries to Work Things Out

On May 2, 2016 I receive a text message from her. She says if I am “willing to arrange a payment plan, she would like to do so” and that she “really [doesn’t] want the headache of everything we discussed.” I believe this is referring to the messages back in March. I personally see a little ownership and understanding on her part that she will need to pay for her images and that she doesn’t want to have to explain herself. We try to set a date to meet and again she is unable to follow through. I ask her to get a hold of me to reschedule and I do not hear from her again. That is until March 12, 2018.

 

 

The Libellous Review

Here I am, sitting at work when my phone goes off showing that this same client has liked 1, 2, now 3 images on my Instagram feed. Odd.. but I leave it until I get home and check my email, where I see she has now also left a public review on my photography business. I read it. And I just sigh..

I honestly forgot that I had posted three of her images on my Instagram between August and September 2015. She had given me written permission to use the images in prompting my business and it was not a secret that I used them at the time, when everything was fine and dandy between us. These are old images and after everything that happened, I have had no reason to use them further. But, alas, I did forget about the ones on my Instagram and I believe these had dredged up her past anger, as I used them (at the time) for business purposes. I have now since deleted them, as I understand it was an issue.

Before I get into dissecting her review, let me just first say, I would never in a million years “bat an eye” to harming anyone, let alone an innocent child. I take pride in what I do and would never intentionally put someones child in danger for any sake whatsoever. Which is why I always have mom or dad spot for me while shooting, I refuse to shoot an awake newborn in an unsafe pose even if the parents ask, and if I have to take the extra time to photoshop the hand holding your babies head out of the picture I will. Because I could not live with myself knowing that I caused your baby harm. If I believed what she told me to be true, I don’t think I would have been able to continue as a photographer, as I myself would be afraid to hurt another. Now you might have noticed that yes, I do not shoot as many sessions as I use to and that is because over the past year and a half, I have been going to through a lot of life changes and challenges. I wanted to put chasing my passion aside for the moment to have time to live life a little more. I needed to make time for me. I still have my prop closet and the equipment I invested in, so that I may return to what I love when I am ready. And I don’t say no to bookings, I just don’t actively advertise for them.

 

Anyways, lets get into clearing the air and my name..

I’m sorry but, what is it exactly that I need to make right in this situation? I have more than done my part in trying to work with her and I am still willing to give her, her images once she pays for them like every other client I have worked with. Even after having been bullied and nearly threatened into giving them to her.

 

As a reminder, our session took place on August 7, 2015. I spoke with her through text message on August 8th and August 9th. Furthermore, if you remember from the Facebook message, she said it was the night of August 8th that her baby stopped breathing and not the morning of. I guess she changed her mind? [Please note, I only want to show what is important in these texts and the timeline, so I have masked the fluff and personal information].

 

On August 8th, after 2:40pm she makes no mention of Violet being sick, no ambulance and shows no frantic worry of something having happened that morning. As I had invited her to come back for an additional, complimentary mini shoot in earlier messages (to try a few outdoor photos – weather providing), she mentions that she doesn’t “trust the sickies of the public” as her baby “is too young to catch something” while taking public transit to get here, which adds to the fact that her baby does not appear to be ill at this point.

In our conversation on August 9th, she does mention that she thinks her baby is getting sick. I respond “Oh no, I hope it is nothing serious” and share a sneak peek of an image with her. To which she shares her love of the photo and goes on to explain that her babies chest is congested. I ask if she has taken her to a walk-in and her response is “Not yet, she seems to be getting better already. I’m keeping a close eye on it today and if it doesn’t get better or worsens I’ll likely go. Those places are diseased lol, she’s bound to catch something.” I believe this statement shows that there was likely no impromptu visit to the hospital the day before, like she had mentioned.

She goes on to say “I’m more worried about what’s there than what she’s got going on.” So clearly, you can see why I am so sceptical as her texts do not corroborate with what she is trying to tell the world that happened. Not to mention no mother is going to sit by when her child has an apparent near death experience like that, especially if she feels someone is at fault for it. Maybe, her baby did get sick and maybe this occurrence happened at a later date. But that would also mean it wasn’t a result of our session. However, I wasn’t there and I cannot say I know what happened and when. But I do have these texts that raise a lot a questions in the authenticity of her claims.

When she first sent me the message in 2016, I thought at the time that she was saying her baby picked up a really bad cold from our session. It appears I misunderstood what she was saying. As I had tried to explain to her at that time that it was hard to tell if her baby picked up a bug from me or my studio. I knew at the time that her and her two children where living in a house with two other individuals and were also in contact with the father the day of the session. Moreover, I had not had anyone in my studio for two months prior to our session and I had not come down with anything myself. Therefore it would have been hard to pinpoint.

I have learned everything I know from bigger and better photographers, a lot of which use a space heater if they have a large studio space to try to heat, or like myself for example, have base board water heating that basically does nothing. So yes, I can say that it is common practice to utilize a heater in order to mimic the womb and have a warm space to keep baby comfortable. There has been a time or two I would use a fan at the opposite end of the room to help keep the parents cool as it can get pretty toasty, so I am not sure if that is what she is trying to refer to as “cold.” I don’t really think there would be a drastic difference in temperature, I unfortunately cannot recall from over two years ago, but knowing my space and past sessions it’s doubtful. I don’t know what changing outfits would do to ones health, however outfits are a staple in most if not all photographer prop collections. And I can say for sure that I have never used water or any liquid to slick the hair down. I find newborn hair, even after being washed, can become “greasy” (I don’t want to use that word, but I can’t think of another) after simply using your hand to stroke their head. So there would be no need to use water.

But I thought we could play a fun little game of “spot the space heater” in these wonderful photographers behind the scenes images:

  1. Rachel Vanoven (studio)
  2. Erin Tole (via Megan Battersby Photography)
  3. Kelley Ryden
  4. Tisha Johnson (via Allison Hadley Photography) – I personally attended this 2-day workshop
  5. Photography by Diana Marie
  6. Blush Little Baby 
  7. Erin Elizabeth Photography
  8. And the list could go on and on..

I don’t believe she expressed any such concerns to me during our session. I only ever heard about any apparent issues in her March 2016 Facebook message, at which time I tried to explain the use of a space heater among newborn photographers, as noted above. And again, I am only masking certain parts of each clip of her review to keep the focus on the important parts. The internet is full of little detectives who can easily find her review as long as she has it posted, should they want to read it.

If you know your friend is a great photographer and would offer their services for free, why not in the least work with both photographers? She can say she felt sorry for me or pressured, but the choice was ultimately hers. She praised my work, she voiced her excitement for our session and her images, so why agree and follow through with an investment she didn’t really want in the first place? I’m sorry, but I just can’t take the blame for the choice she made and I question the authenticity of this claim.

Furthermore, in reviewing old Facebook messages, she does make this comment, so you decide:

 

In closing, I understand everyone will make their own judgements. I am just hoping this will show my side of the situation and why I just simply do not believe her accusations and lies. It hurts to know it has come to this, because I know there is good in her, I have seen it; but her intentions here are bad. Her gallery will always be available to her when she is ready and willing to do the right thing. I would never keep them from her, you have my written proof.

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