Waihi wedding photographer left newlyweds without snaps of their special days for many months

Georgia and Isaac Smith on their wedding day. Photo / Sharni Dysart

A Waihi wedding photographer is accused of breaking the hearts of newlyweds by failing for many months to hand over some or all of several couples’ wedding pictures.

When Grace thinks back to her wedding in April this year it isn’t her vows, dress or seeing her husband at the altar that initially comes to mind.

She thinks of the photographer she hired, Sharni Dysart.

Earlier this month, Grace told the Herald on Sunday she and her husband were yet to receive any images from Dysart, who also goes by the last name Measures online.

“It’s affected me in quite a big way. I know it’s just wedding photos but I’ve had sleepless nights, I’ve been so stressed about it. Whenever people ask me when are we gonna see your wedding photos I usually break down in tears.”

Even on her wedding day, Grace said things did not run smoothly. She said Dysart failed to turn up, claiming she was a close contact of someone with Covid, and hired a freelancer to cover their wedding instead.

Although she wasn’t shooting the wedding, Grace said Dysart was still in charge of editing the images and sending them to the couple.

Grace, who lives in Auckland and only wants to share her middle name, told the Herald on Sunday the freelance photographer who shot the wedding informed her it shouldn’t take more than three or four weeks for Dysart to finish the photos.

But as the months ticked by, the pictures didn’t eventuate.

“It feels awful to be honest. I just really want my wedding photos. You only get married one time and I’m just really scared I’m never going to get them back.

“It’s our special day, and she’s kind of taken that from us and it’s not really about the money for me. I just want the memories.”

Grace is now one of the dozens of members or former members of a Facebook group of spurned newlyweds left in the lurch by Dysart.

Nearly two weeks after the Herald first approached Dysart for comment, Grace received her images.

Although she is relieved and happy, Grace still feels like their special day was taken away from them.

“I really don’t think it’s kind of acceptable. It was really unfair on myself and others because, well for myself I went through six months of stress thinking I might not get them. Pretty much every unanswered message made me so so anxious and I think, I don’t know if I hadn’t gone to the media if I would have got them.”

Dysart said issues raised by the Herald were being addressed through the “proper channels”, if they had not been already.

She said her legal and health advice was not to engage in sources of stress so she would not comment further.

Georgia Smith and her partner Isaac Smith married in September last year and while she has the images now, she said they’re still waiting for prints from Dysart.

In their contract, Smith said it stated they would start getting access to some photos to look over within a few days of the wedding and would get to see the photos no later than 12 weeks after the wedding.

But as the weeks passed she said the pictures did not arrive.

“It got to about week eight and she had posted some of my wedding photos to her Instagram.

“When people were asking for my wedding photos the only thing I had to show were these screenshots of her Instagram.”

Georgia and Isaac Smith on their wedding day. Photo / Sharni Dysart
Georgia and Isaac Smith on their wedding day. Photo / Sharni Dysart

At that point Smith, who works in healthcare in South Waikato, said Dysart had still not sent her any images and was ignoring her messages.

“I was emailing her, I was sending her text messages, Instagram, Facebook like everything and she wasn’t replying.”

It wasn’t until the end of February or mid-March that Smith said she got any images from Dysart. Nearly a year on from her special day, she said she’s still waiting for the prints.

“I didn’t realise how many people she had done this to. And yeah, I just want my photos, I want nothing more than for everyone else to get their photos or some form of justice. Because it’s not fair.”

Georgia and Isaac Smith on their wedding day. Photo / Sharni Dysart
Georgia and Isaac Smith on their wedding day. Photo / Sharni Dysart

Xavia Connolly was in a similar boat.

At the Otorohanga teacher’s wedding day on December 20, Connolly said Dysart arrived late and was “very casual”.

When the event wrapped up, she alleges Dysart told her she would send through about 10 photos as a “sneak peek” in the next few days.

But like the others, she said her images also did not arrive on time and by January 10 she emailed Dysart to inquire about where her “sneak peek” photos were.

Xavia on her wedding day. photo / Sharni Dysart
Xavia on her wedding day. photo / Sharni Dysart

Near the end of January she got a copy of the 10 preview shots, and in March she received some more back. But she was still waiting for the remaining images when the Herald on Sunday first spoke to her.

“We don’t even have a photo of our actual wedding ceremony. Like we don’t, we don’t even have a photo of me walking down the aisle, or us standing. We don’t have those,” she said earlier this month.

“It’s not just the photos, it’s not just the money, it’s the moments of our life aren’t captured any more.”

Like Grace, Xavia received the images from Dysart this week.

“The fact that we have our photos back is surreal in two ways: one, that we have actually got them back; and two, that she seemingly only got them back to us because she caught wind that her misdealings were finally catching up with her.”

Xavia and her husband. Photo / Sharni Dysart
Xavia and her husband. Photo / Sharni Dysart

A spokesperson for Consumer NZ said a photographers’ clients are covered under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA), which requires the provider to undertake their service with reasonable care and skill, and within a reasonable time.

They argued that taking up to a year to hand over images or not handing over the photos as expected breached the consumer’s rights under the CGA.

Dianne Lewis, a law student from Tauranga, decided to take Dysart to the Disputes Tribunal earlier this year after waiting many months to get the photos from her wedding.

She said an adjudicator ruled in Lewis’ favour, that Dysart had breached their contract, and she was ordered to pay $1400.

This, Lewis said, was the cost they had to pay to the other photographer, who had covered her December wedding day after Dysart claimed she hadn’t had her second Covid-19 jab, in order to get the images from her.

Dianne Lewis and her husband. Photo / Supplied
Dianne Lewis and her husband. Photo / Supplied

It wasn’t until after the Herald on Sunday contacted Dysart this month that Lewis said the photographer finally transferred the funds.

Jenna*, who doesn’t want to use her real name, was also taking Dysart to the Disputes Tribunal over her experience.

Two days before Jenna was due to wed in late January, Dysart informed her she was a Covid close contact so she would be unable to photograph the wedding but she had again hired a fill-in who would take the images and Dysart would edit them.

Again, as time passed the pictures had still not been sent and by the third month of waiting Jenna realised something was up.

Screenshots of messages from Jenna to Dysart show her messaging the photographer on several occasions, across several days, and Dysart not replying.

“I was feeling very anxious, very nervous and possibly a little bit depressed about it as well.”

Jenna said she reached out to the photographer who was there on her wedding day asking why she couldn’t give her the images from her wedding day.

“She said it’s because it goes against her agreement with Sharni.”

She said the photographer advised her to try to go through the tribunal route to get the images. While her hearing was scheduled for later this month, after Herald inquiries she said Dysart provided the images back on Friday.

This week, she too received her images back Dysart.

“It’s our wedding day. And you don’t want to not have your photos back of your big day. It only happens once.”

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