IMPORTANT: This post details the personal and legal encounter we had with Teri Gunn (who at the time lived in Dayton, OR). You may have found this post via Google or other search engine. In order to avoid issues of mistaken identity please be aware that posted below is a picture of the Teri Gunn this post is written about. Additionally the Teri Gunn this post is about has two web sites: Design Explorations and The Beauty of Decay. Hopefully this information will avoid any possible mistaken identity issues.
If it existed, Teri Gunn would burn in a very special level of Hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater (1).
Sandi realized that the images of the e-mails and letter we sent to Teri were hard to read, especially at lower resolutions. The links now point to PDFs of the e-mails and letters.
FYI: Since this post was published Teri Gunn has amassed a couple of web sites Design Explorations and The Beauty of Decay.
First, a brief explanation of why I’m writing this post:
It’s a warning. Even as unlikely as it is that you will come across Teri Gunn, you will no doubt be presented with an opportunity to deal with someone like her. Your gut will tell you not to trust them but you will still want to; because it’s who you are. Let our story serve reinforcement for your gut. Do not trust them, run away, avoid people like Teri Gunn as you would avoid a zombie horde.
It’s payback. Teri Gunn hurt my wife and me, she stole our property, caused us undue stress, time, money, and caused a rift to form between Sandi and members of her family. Her inhumane behavior brought Sandi to tears and that’s fucking unacceptable. So, this is me, taking the opportunity to drag Teri through the mud; and I am completely unapologetic about it. She deserves it. Teri is a liar, and a thief and I’m going to do everything I can to let the world know that.
What you are about to read is the truth, it’s obviously written in my own words, but it is nevertheless the complete truth. Teri Gunn and others on her side would of course claim otherwise, but they’d be lying(2).
Sandi and I got married on a budget and didn’t have a whole lot of money for a wedding photographer, but obviously still wanted pictures of the day. I was going to ask my uncle(3); until Sandi’s sister-in-law Kim told her that Teri (a friend of both Sandi and Kim) was interested in photographing our wedding. Before talking to Teri or my uncle, among other things regarding our wedding pictures, Sandi and I established that we wanted the raw (4) pictures that our wedding photographer shot. So, whoever our photographer was, we needed to make sure that they would be ok with giving them to us.
Sandi and I decided that if she wanted to do it, we’d use Teri as our photographer because my uncle was already videotaping and we didn’t want to add anymore to his plate.
I am strongly against the practice of a photographer maintaining ownership (copyright) of pictures they are being paid to take. If I am paying you to take pictures they are mine thankyouverymuch. Most photographers will make you sign a contract, signing away your rights to the pictures you’re paying them to take. It’s about trying to suck you for every penny they can, they want to make sure that you have to come back to them for prints, etc. Some photographers will release their rights after a period of time (years) or for a very handsome fee, which is ridiculous. The idea that a photographer maintains ownership of pictures you paid them to take is bunk; but it’s been happening so long that people don’t know any better. It shouldn’t be tolerated and people should seek out more enlightened photographers.
Several weeks before our wedding, Teri called Sandi and officially offered to act as our wedding photographer (before we even asked her). I walked into the room part way through Sandi and Teri’s conversation and Sandi told me that Teri offered do our wedding photos. The first thing I asked Sandi was if she [Teri] was ok with giving us the raw pictures and Sandi nodded indicating to me that she had confirmed that Teri was ok with it. Still wanting to be sure I asked Sandi several more times, I asked so many times that Sandi gave me a look because I was being annoying. I wanted to be sure.
It’s simple, if Teri was not ok with giving us the raw pictures she would have not been our photographer.
During the conversation, when Sandi asked Teri how much she’d charge us, Teri told Sandi that she would do it for free and gave Sandi a number of reasons why:
- Sandi was her friend.
- Sandi was there for her through tough times, when no one else was.
- Sandi was the reason she met her husband(5).
Teri said she wanted to photograph our wedding as a gift to Sandi, plus as a student photographer she wanted the experience of photographing a wedding and the pictures to start building her portfolio. Having Teri do our wedding pictures at no charge was obviously advantageous to us, given our limited wedding budget. Given the risk we were taking on an inexperienced photographer though, it seemed like a fair trade.
I want to make it clear that at the time Teri was not a professional photographer; she approached us as a student photographer. Teri had no portfolio (6), no professional experience and our wedding would be the first she had ever done.
The deal that Sandi and Teri hashed out was straight forward:
- Teri would photograph our wedding on April 1st 2009, no charge, she refused to be paid because it was to be a gift to Sandi.
- Teri was ok with giving us the raw pictures, Sandi confirmed this several times.
- If Sandi and I wanted any prints, either from Teri’s edits or my own we’d order them through Teri.
- And of course Teri was free to use our wedding pictures for her portfolio.
Sandi and I had been warned, by several people not to deal with Teri – she has a reputation of being unscrupulous, of screwing people over, and going back on her word. The problem is Sandi and I are far too trusting for our own good, and generally give people the benefit of the doubt; we dismissed the warnings. After all Teri was Sandi’s friend, a friend of Sandi’s sister-in-law and what kind of person would fuck with someone’s wedding right?
About two weeks before our wedding Teri called Sandi and asked if we could pay her $125.00 for photographing our wedding. Several weeks ago she was more than willing to do it as a gift to Sandi but something changed(7) and now she wanted to be paid $125.00. It was two weeks before the wedding so we were a bit stuck so we agreed to pay her the $125.00, nothing else changed.
It could be argued that it’s ridiculous for a student photographer, one with no experience, to expect to be paid anything. In fact, it is. As a student photographer they should be content with the fact that someone is willing to take the risk on them in the first place. But Sandi and I are far too nice for our own good, and thought it was fair that Teri get paid a little for taking the time out of her day.
It’s fair to say that since Teri was being paid now, even a small amount, our wedding was now a paid gig and so the stakes were raised a little higher. Our expectations went up a little compared the freebee gig she had offered us before but we were still aware that Teri had no experience. Our wedding day came and Teri showed up with her camera and one 512MB SD card. It was a cloudy, cold, and rainy April day so as we expected, outside pictures were not going to happen.
When we started to take pictures Teri immediately started complaining about not being able to take pictures outside, the poor lighting inside, and her camera. Teri’s complaining didn’t help Sandi who was already nervous and it was so incessant that it caught the attention of our guests and the manager of the facility. The facility manager later told Sandi that she felt bad, and was turning every light on that she could. The lack of light was not the problem though, it was Teri’s complete lack of knowing what the fuck she was doing.
Again, Sandi and I were aware of Teri’s lack of experience, but one also expects that an adult who is trying to start a career would be able to maintain at least a minimum level of professional composure. That said, Sandi and I had largely forgotten about Teri’s behavior, and dismissed it. We understood that this was her first wedding and she was probably just nervous.
It’s now two weeks after our wedding and we’ve not see any of the pictures Teri took, except for three of our cake that she posted on Facebook. Sandi was on Facebook when she got a message from Teri via Facebook chat. Teri started the conversation with normal conversation banter and then said she had worked on our pictures that day. Sandi asked when we’d get to see them and Teri said “soon.” Sandi asked Teri about the raw pictures, and told her that she didn’t need to spend time on them (of course she was welcome to) since we’re just going to get the raw pictures and I’d Photoshop them up and go from there. Then, the same person who brought one 512MB SD card to a wedding, the same one who complained incessantly about the weather, lighting and her camera said:
No, remember I told you I can’t do that. Anything that goes out with my name on it has to be to my quality standards.
First, Teri said she was ok with giving us the raw pictures several weeks back, second why is she so concerned with her “quality standards” now when she was willing to represent herself so poorly at our wedding?
Eventually, Teri told Sandi that if we wanted the raw pictures we could pay her $800 for them. Teri said she’s a professional, and she needed to maintain “creative control” over her work and denied agreeing to give us the raw pictures. I find it laughable that Teri called herself a “professional” – between her incessant complaining about the weather, lighting, and her camera, only bringing one 512MB SD card to a wedding, having no experience, and no portfolio, Teri is hardly a professional.
At this point watching our wedding pictures slip away Sandi was in tears. I got on the chat and thanked Teri for bringing Sandi to tears. I called Teri a liar, and reminded her that she agreed to give us the raw pictures, and again she denied it. Like a coward she then left the Facebook chat, saying “we’ll talk later” but she never came back.
I felt like we needed an advocate, so I called Sandi’s mom and apprised her of the situation hoping that maybe she could talk to Teri (who she knew) so we could come to some resolution but Teri would not take her calls, or ours.
Turns out, Teri was busy calling Sandi’s sister-in-law, telling her that “Adam called me every name in the book” during the Facebook chat. Sandi’s sister-in-law Kim (the wife of a pastor) then called Sandi’s mom and blatantly lied, telling her that I cussed Teri out. When Sandi’s mom told Sandi and I what Teri and Kim were saying, I was thankful that Sandi was smart enough not to close the chat window. I took screenshots(PDF) to show whoever needed proof, that I did not utter one curse-word to Teri during the Facebook chat. Given the fact that Teris was screwing us over, Sandi and I were quite nice.
Unfortunately, the damage was done; Teri’s actions, involving people who had nothing to do with the situation had already caused the rift to form between Sandi’s sister-in-law Kim and her brother but that is a whole other story. The next day we sent Teri an e-mail(pdf). Since she was so willing to call herself a professional I outlined some issues Sandi and I had with her unprofessional behavior at our wedding and offered her some advice. Though critical of her, it was not mean. In the same e-mail we remind Teri that she agreed to give us the raw pictures and that she originally offered to photograph our wedding for free, only to ask for $125.00 two weeks before the wedding. We asked her to just give us the SD card she used for our wedding and we’d give her $25.00, more than enough to replace the 512MB card she used.
Sandi and Adam,
I’m sorry you are choosing to do this. I will not play your games, and I can’t be bullied. I am not going to respond to all this rubbish. We all know the truth and if you decide to admit it and stick to the agreement we made, I will order your proofs and then prints for you. You cannot have my files, sorry, not a deal, EVER. As soon as you pay me the $125 we agreed on, plus printing, and a signed contract, the order can be placed. I would be willing to GIVE you select files for use in your video, but only with a signed contract limiting the use to your video. You can also choose not to purchase you photos, and I will write off the $125. If this is the choice you make I will consider our verbal contract void and there will be no need for further communication about this.
Hum, I don’t recall that a contract limiting the use of our pictures was a part of the “agreement we made.” At this point Sandi and I had both emotionally written off the pictures but were not ok with what Teri was doing. She went back on her word, lied about me to Sandi’s family and was effectively holding our wedding pictures hostage, demanding ransom. It was now about the principal, about not taking Teri trying to screw us lying down. Sandi talked to a family member, a lawyer, who told her that whatever the agreement was at the time Teri took the pictures is what we should stick by. So, we wrote Teri another e-mail(pdf) in which we informed Teri that we talked to a lawyer, and were going to go by the agreement that was in place when she took the pictures. We’d pay her $125.00, and she should give us the raw pictures. Obviously, at this point getting prints from Teri was out of the question. We also warned Teri that if she did not abide by the agreement then we would file a small claims case against her.
Good luck, no contract! No proof. I told you that if you did not accept my deal that you should not contact me again. If you choose to do so I will contact authorities and get a restraining order. Yes this is serious and the law is on my side. Copyright laws are clear and you have no grounds for a lawsuit. As I told you, I will not be bullied. I am not afraid of your hot air.
Again, hum, “Good luck, no contract! No proof.” it’s true, we didn’t have a signed contract but why is she taunting us about it? She also tells us that if we don’t do it her way, she is going to get a restraining order against us, which is laughable because she has no grounds but it shows you the type of person we were dealing with. We’re trying to resolve the situation and she is threatening restraining orders. As a last ditch effort, we sent Teri a demand letter(pdf) via certified mail, which included a check for $125.00; we gave Teri 10 days from the date of the letter to surrender our photos. In a demonstration of utter responsibility Teri waited till the ninth day to pick the letter up from the post office. Sandi and I waited five more working days for Teri to respond, and then we filed a small claims case against her.
Now, Sandi and I both understood that it was our word against Teri’s, but we did not feel that we should take this lying down, it was the principal of the matter. With cases like this, it comes down to who the judge believes, whose story is most likely the truth. Given our stance on the issue, what’s more likely: that we’d use Teri who would not give us the raw photos unless we paid her $800, or that we’d use my uncle, or someone else who would just give them to us?
As part of the process of filing the small claims case we were required to put the dollar amount we were seeking, we could not put that we just wanted our pictures. Obviously, wedding pictures are priceless, but Sandi and I sat down and figured out how much it would cost us to recreate our wedding pictures and we came up with $3,700.00. So that’s what we filed the small claims case for, but we still just wanted the pictures, or at least to let Teri know that she couldn’t get away with screwing us over. It was not about money.
Teri was served the court papers via sheriff and we had to wait fourteen days for her to respond, she had three options:
- Deny the claim.
- Deny the claim and file a counter suit.
- Ignore it and risk a default judgment against her.
Teri decided to deny the claim and counter sue. She counter sued us for $3,700 which is laughable. First, because the most amount of money she ever asked us for was $800. Second, because that’s the same amount our suit against her was for. Teri’s counter-claim was the definition of frivolous.
In between waiting for our court date we actually got an offer to appear on Judge Judy(pdf) and have our case arbitrated on the show. Sandi talked to a producer and got the low down on what would happen and we agreed that we would go on the show. The producer then talked to Teri and even though Teri seemed interested at first, she stopped communicating with the producer. The producer later told us that Teri would not go on without Kim, Sandi’s sister-in-law who took Teri’s side from the beginning. What we think happened was that while Kim was willing to lie to me, Sandi and everyone else, going on TV and lying was a little too much for the wife of a pastor. Since Kim was not willing to do Judge Judy, neither was Teri. We were a little surprised; a free trip to California, free hotel stay, free food, $100 appearance fee and the show pays whatever judgement is found, it’s a sweet deal. But again, it would have required Teri and Kim to both appear on national TV and lie. It seems that they both prefer to keep their lies local.
It’s now been two months since our wedding and we have still not seen any of the pictures Teri took. Teri claimed she had amazing pictures but up till this point she refused to show them to us.
Yamhill County requires that both parties attempt mediation before the case is heard by a judge. The process is simple, both sides go into a room and two trained mediators do their best to try to get both sides to come to an agreement. It’s actually a good thing, because it forces you to listen to what the other person has to say (you are not allowed to interrupt), you have to be civil and it allows the parties to come to a mutual agreement rather than a judge forcing a decision on you.
We went first stating our side to the mediators, we told the mediators that we were still willing to adhere to the agreement that we had in place when Teri took the pictures. We’d pay Teri $125, she gives us the raw pictures like she said she would and we’d part ways. For obvious reasons we were not willing to get prints through her. The thing was that we had pay to file the small claims case against her and we felt that Teri’s unwillingness to work out the situation outside of the court system forced us to file the case; so we said we’d pay Teri $2.18 which when added to our filing costs added up to $125.
Then Teri told her side, continued to lie, said that we could get prints from her, for whatever amount she decided to pull out of her disgustingly oversized ass at that moment and we could only have the raw pictures if we paid her $800. She droned on about being a professional, it was really the most frustrating part, having to sit there and listen to Teri blather on knowing full well that she was lying.
After we both stated our sides the mediators started to… mediate. We went back and forth, neither of us willing to back down from our position. We weren’t willing to back down because we were not going to allow Teri to lie, cheat, and steal from us. Teri was not backing down because she’s a stubborn thief.
The mediators asked to speak with each of us privately, we went first. We basically told the mediators we were not going to back down; Teri agreed to give us the raw pictures and we were not going to give her the satisfaction of paying her any more money than we agreed to. It wasn’t like we had $800 just to slap down and give her anyway. Sandi was very emotional at this point. It was incredibly frustrating that even in a court house Teri would not admit that she agreed to give us the raw pictures. We also discussed Teri’s counter suit, as frivolous as it was, it did present a risk to us. If we went before a judge there was a possibility that we could end up being ordered to pay Teri even more than the $800 raw picture fee she pulled out of her disgustingly oversized ass.
Teri then took her turn to meet with the mediators privately. What they talked about we don’t know but I’d stake my life that Teri continued to lie. After Teri was done lying to the mediators privately we were called back into the room.
I’m pretty good at reading people, the mediators were frustrated because they really wanted to find a resolution to the situation and even after nearly two hours of mediation Sandi and I were not budging and neither was Teri. I’m obviously biased but I felt like they were sympathetic towards Sandi and I(8). It was getting to the point where they were going to have to call it and we’d have to go before a judge.
Sandi summed it up very well when she told the mediators – What we are purposing, sticking to the original agreement does not cost us or Teri anything. What Teri is purposing does not cost her anything, but costs us $800, on top of the fact that it goes completely against what Teri agreed to in the first place.
The mediators told us Teri was willing to show us some of the pictures she brought of our wedding; maybe if we saw them we’d be willing to budge a little. Up till this point Teri had been unwilling to show us any of our pictures unless we paid her, so this was progress.
Sandi left the decision up to me and I thought for a little bit and finally told the mediators: If we look at the pictures, and decide that they are not worth fighting for, or paying $800 for, then we will just walk away and drop our suit as long as Teri drops her counter suit. Sandi added that Teri also has to agree to destroy the pictures. Teri refused to agree to destroy the pictures, she insisted that one day we’d “come to our senses” and pay her for them. Not fucking likely.
Teri tried to get the mediators to add that Sandi and I could not “talk bad about her” to anyone… the mediators gave her a “are you five?” look.
We finally came to an agreement that if we looked at the pictures, did not feel that they were worth it we’d drop our suit, Teri would drop hers and Teri was barred from using any pictures from our wedding in any personal or professional capacity. In other words – she might as well destroy them because they would never legally be allowed to see the light of day anyway.
Teri slid over a sheet with four pictures printed on it – I looked at them, Sandi looked at them. I wanted to jump across the table and beat the living crap out of Teri. How dare she put Sandi and I through this, how dare she taint our wedding day like this, how dare she force us to this room, on this day, only to show us the complete and utter pile of shit that were the pictures she took of our wedding.
Sandi and I were thinking the same thing: If you were trying to convince someone that your pictures are worth something, wouldn’t you bring your best examples?
Holy monkey balls! There is no way that we’d pay her $8.00 for those pictures let alone $800.
After seeing the pictures Sandi, emotionally spent, asked me to make the final decision to drop it or see a judge.
Throughout all this Teri kept telling us what great pictures she took, and we kept reminding her that she hadn’t shown any of them to us. If she had just shown them to us in the first place, it would have never gone as far as it did because the pictures simply were not worth the fight. Sandi and I were operating off the principal of the matter, we’d already emotionally written off the pictures but Teri was trying to screw us over and we were not going to take that lying down. Before this, I thought justice would be Teri giving us our pictures per our agreement, or a judge ordering her to do so. But then, looking at those pictures, I realized that justice could be found simply by telling Teri that her pictures were not worth fighting for.
I threw the pictures back at Teri and told the mediators we’d be dropping our suit, per the agreement.
In the end Teri did not get any of the money she
claimed we owed her tried to steal from us and she can’t use our pictures for anything(9), not her portfolio, not anything. Sandi and I maintained control – Teri agreed to our terms to end the suit, she didn’t even get her laughable “can’t talk bad about me” condition put in the agreement.
Teri’s hope in all this was that we’d want the pictures so bad that we’d do anything for them, and she was wrong. If we had taken the suit to a judge we would have been sending the message to Teri that the pictures were worth something and they just weren’t. In fact, had Teri not been such a twat and shown us the pictures to begin with, we would have dismissed the issue long before we filed a case against her.
Teri thought she saw an opportunity to make a quick buck. She tried, and failed to hold our wedding pictures hostage for ransom. I’d suggest that if Teri wants to try this scam with anyone else, she should do some reading and actually get pictures at least worth the paper they are printed on.
Sandi and I still have plenty of pictures of our wedding, friends and family, decent human beings, who took snapshots have freely given us the pictures they took, no undue payment or contracts required. We do not have the “posed” pictures but we have had several people (including a real professional photographer) offer to do those for us if we want to dress back up.
(1) “Firefly” Our Mrs. Reynolds (2002)
(2) Though I believe what is written here to be factual, it is in the end just my opinion of Teri Gunn and what she did to my wife Sandi and me. I trust that you, the discerning reader have the capability to read this, digest it, and form your own conclusions. After posting this if Teri offers a rebuttal I will be more than happy to post it here. Until then, or if your just in the mood to be lied to; you can contact Teri via e-mail and get her side of the story – [email protected] Teri also has a couple of web sites: Design Explorations and The Beauty of Decay.
(3) While not a “professional”, he is a more than capable photographer.
(4) A little explanation – In this case by “raw pictures” I mean the pictures directly from the camera, untouched, as shot. If we had hired a “real” photographer I’d be referring to both the untouched, as shot pictures directly from the camera, as well as the any full resolution (uncompressed) edits that the photographer may have made.?
(5) You know those people that just look like child molesters, even though they may not be? Teri’s husband, Rob, looks like that. It’s completely irrelevant to this topic but worth pointing out I think.?
(6) When I say portfolio, I mean a real portfolio not a few pictures posted on FaceBook.?
(7) We found out later that Kim (Sandi’s sister-in-law) found out that Teri was going to photograph our wedding for free. Kim apparently had an issue with this and told Teri she should charge us $150. Apparently $125 was a compromise.?
(8) Obviously, the mediators do not take sides. They never once stated an opinion one way or the other. I just felt like they understood where Sandi and I were coming from.?
(9) The verbiage used is clear and we made sure of that. If it’s of our wedding, and she took it, she can’t use it in anyway shape or form. If she took a picture of the grass at our wedding, she can’t use it. Those family pictures she was taking while deleting ours? Nope sorry, bummer for you Jim and Kim. She can’t print them, show them, sell them, give them away, hell it could be argued that she can’t look at them. Oh, and those pictures of our wedding cake she has on her FaceBook – need to be pulled off. If she uses them in any personal or professional capacity she will find herself back in court.