First, I want to say thank you to those who have stood behind me in this business. I seem to have a lot of support from past clients, and present. My business partner Jessica has become my photography soul mate over the last few months. It’s grown into a close friendship, and out of that I have three more close friends.
I chose photography as my outlet from the daily routine. I wasn’t a girl who had studied it, or had my father give me a camera. I was that girl who thought it was the perfect way for me to escape a routine that I fell into. I did have an agenda behind it though. I have met thousands of couples over the last seven years who cannot conceive, or some who have had multiple losses. With each couple, and each story it doesn’t get easier. I’ve watched couples fall apart, hurt, be angry, and feel every emotion they could because once deemed infertile, it costs a lot of money to get the family you want. I know the costs behind it, I’ve watched it too many times. So I was going to use the photography to fund the fertility. Couples who have to spend $2,000.00 in ARTS per cycle, well I wanted to help them. I help couples conceive around the globe, but I can’t help them once they’ve been hit with infertility. I can only be there for them for support.
But, this meant I had to actually be good at photography before I could expect anyone to invest in me. I knew what I wanted to photograph, and that was giving life. For years I photographed for free, only they had to purchase prints if they wanted. Meanwhile, with each little, and each workshop, each mentoring session… I had to improve my skills. It was art I had started to create. I would dream about it, and soon I had so many props it became overwhelming.
About this year I had decided that I should start charging for my work, my time, and my talent. I still had some things to work on, but I knew it would come in time.
In March of 2014 I started selling things around the house that I do not use, baby items left over from my last child. That’s when I listed items on a community group called Baby and Maternity Swip Swap on facebook. A woman named Amber Vollenweider commented on a highchair I had for sale. She private messaged me that she wanted to come pick up the highchair after her daughter got out of school. A woman in a van showed up with a few children, picked up the highchair and thanked me so much. While she was here she saw the studio I have, and stated that I had a lot more things that what her personal photographer does. She told me her photographer was Jessica Gray Photography. Then she saw how I am a Fertility Coach, told me her aunt might want to speak to me. So I gave her my business card. The conversation is here from Amber Vollenweider.
A month passes, and a woman named Melissa Canales pops up on the caller ID. She said to me “Hey girl it’s me, I picked up the high chair from you. I was wondering if you can meet with my aunt and I for Fertility issues”. I was honestly confused thinking that I had just gotten the names mixed up on who was who.
Melissa and her family came to my office..yes this was the same girl who had picked up the high chair. We then started some fertility things for her and her aunt. After this Melissa Canales added me on my personal facebook page. She had then gotten pregnant.
February 12th 2015, Melissa Canales had contacted me wanting me to do a boudoir maternity session for her husband. She had wanted to make him a calendar. Melissa at the time was eight months pregnant. She also wanted birth, and newborn. Since she was my first package deal, I told her $400.00 for all. A retainer of half is due up front.
I met with Melissa the morning of February 12th for her shoot. Once I arrived to her home I asked her to sign the contract. She then said we can do it after the shoot. We then got started about 20 minutes later. The shoot was about an hour and a half long. After the shoot I had the contract at hand, one copy for her and one for myself. She signed both contracts. Said she would pay me some money once she picks up her children from school.
After she picked her daughter up that day, Melissa had paid me $60.00 of her balance towards her session package. She had asked that the images be edited that evening since she wants to create that calendar. I edited each image that night. Since it was a calendar I knew it was 12 images, which I had put in the gallery for her to download. I also took my watermark off those images so she could print them for her calendar. I also made a disc for her and gave it to her Valentine’s day morning February 14th.
February 19th I received a message from Melissa telling me that she was going to be induced. I went to Ormond, and met with Melissa and her family. I was then told that she would be induced on the 20th, the following day. So I drove back home.
February 20th, I drove to Melissa’s house about 7:30am. I met both Melissa and her husband at the hospital for induction. Once in the room, we waited. I still have not received payment at this time, but I felt since I was already committed to this client I would photograph her birth. We had conversations, and one of them was “My friends Amber Vollenweider is having a VBAC birth but she’s in Orlando, I told her to contact you. She’s a private person so she doesn’t have a whole lot on her facebook page since her husband and her are in a nasty divorce.”This made me start thinking if this Amber person was even real? Then I thought back to when I had sold items back in 2014, and who really showed up at my door.
15 hours later, and Melissa had a little baby girl. February 21st, after birth I stayed for two hours to photograph bonding between family and new baby. I headed back home about 4am that Saturday morning.
Because littles uncurl before they are ten days old I had wanted her little girl in prior. However, there were some issues with Jaundice, so we scheduled her daughter for March 4th.
March 3rd, even though still no payment had been made I still photographed her baby. Unfortunately that day was not an easy day, as Melissa had brought all her children to the studio/my home. Her two youngest children destroyed some of my son’s toys, destroyed my home and beat up my 4 year old. My husband who had been here, along with my newborn assistant was floored. Due to her two youngest children screaming, her daughter wouldn’t sleep or settle, I was only able to get just a few images of her daughter. However during this time, Melissa kept telling me her friend ‘Amber’ from Orlando wanted to come down to meet me (even though I figured out the two are the same persons). Melissa also told my assistant and I, that a Jessica Gray Photography was at her house just now trying to ‘recruit’ newborns and wanted to take business from me.
Melissa had wanted to come back a day later without her children so I can get more images. I did agree. So March 5th Melissa came back, and I was able to finish the session and get the images she had wanted.
That particular weekend on the 7th of March I had another newborn from a vendor. This vendor and I exchanged services. I received some beautiful newborn props. I was extremely ecstatic.
Once I posted my clients images on my facebook page, Melissa had wanted more photos of her daughter photographed since she saw the new props I had. However, because I still hadn’t received payment I declined.
My contract does state that until balance is paid in full, no design work will be performed. However, I had put Melissa’s newborn images on my gallery April 14th. Which became active April 14th when she paid me the $100.00 towards her session dues. She logged in the gallery. I keep my galleries active for 10 days.
And then March 12th, the mysterious ‘Amber‘ contacted me.
April 14th, Melissa came to my home with $100.00 towards her session balance. She was given a receipt. During this time Melissa proceeded to tell me that a girl named ‘Lexy’ (who apparently is another photographer in our area was at her daughter’s birthday party that last weekend) saying how horrible my images were and my edits look like ‘dead babies’. Then said that her and her husband got angry and kicked Lexy out of their house. I shrugged my shoulders and posted something on my facebook page about People who can do, and people who can’t criticize (seen here).
The following day April 15th, I received a private message on my photography facebook page. It was from someone named Lexy. Lexy claimed that I was telling people she was out of business. I told her that was untrue and I have no idea what she is speaking about. Then I told her that a girl named Melissa told me that SHE was speaking bad about my photography work. That’s when we both confirmed that Melissa had told this girl Lexy things, and then myself things to get us both into a fight. The conversation is here.
It took me a few to think about what to do with this situation. I know I didn’t want Melissa on my personal facebook page, as at this point there does not need to be a friendship. So come April 16th, I deleted Melissa off my personal facebook page.
April 17th I then started receiving threats from Amber Vollenweider, AKA Melissa Canales. At this point no payment has been made towards Melissa’s package.
Once that threat was made, I had blocked Melissa Canales from contacting me through facebook. That’s when all the threats, and harassment started. I was blasted on most the swip swap posts on facebook for our community, I was emailed harassing emails (Here) and (here), (and here is the contracts here and here) and my husband had been text messaged nasty messages that I was ‘cheating’ on him (those are all saved to an SD card). We kept the text messages and they’ve been printed out… however the entire timeline of the case is here. Melissa also created Fake accounts along the web, one which is named Britney Miler, to leave me bad reviews.
All of this that had transpired caused me to contact Jessica of Jessica Gray Photography. We had actually met the day of Melissa’s first boudoir maternity session. Her and I had lunch together. So I figured we should meet again, this way I can confront her on Melissa’s allegation of her trying to take business from me. To which Jessica said this wasn’t true.
May 4th, I had met with the next person who is starting the harassment. Cassandra Smith, at 7:20pm. Cassandra and her step father Mike showed up together, and we all sat in my office. The two had recently been involved in the Melissa ordeal, as Melissa had contacted Cassandra at one point to tell her that she shouldn’t do business with me. Cassandra and Mike both raved about how beautiful my images were and how much they would love to hire me. I drew up a proposal (All Momma Bold), and handed Mike the contract so he could look it over. Mike stated that he would be the one to pay for her sessions that she wants.
After the meeting took place, Cassandra and I spoke a lot through facebook. We got to know each other pretty well. She too was on my personal facebook page. Cassandra kept sending me images of gowns that another local photographer puts her clients in. As it was planned that I was to photograph her maternity session. She fell in love with several gowns, unfortunately these gowns cost over $175.00 a piece. I would have had to of had payment first before I could purchase one for her.
June 13th, Melissa made another fake account Britney Miler contacting Jessica warning her not to work with me.
June 16th Cassandra messaged me and told me that a friend surprised her with a maternity shoot for her portfolio and didn’t want me to think she went to someone else, as she still wanted me to photograph her. At this time I still have not received a signed contract for commitment nor did I receive any payments. So I was unsure of what exactly is supposed to happen since she was due in a months time.
June 30th, we had discussed payment plans even if it was ’25 dollars a pop’ because she wanted to still hire me. At this time no commit has been made still.
July 12th, Cassandra really wanted maternity pictures, her words were “Just a quick sesh“. I still do not have a contract signed, and no discussion of payment. However I knew she really wanted them done, and I really thought I could trust their word. So I went over to her house and shot her maternity at Washington Oaks beach.
I had most the images from her Maternity edited by July 13th. In messages she told me she loved them, both her, her husband, and her father said they loved them. I was really glad too since I used a new lens.
July 18th, I was asked by Mike to email the contract to him so he can handle payment for the pictures. So I did.
July 19th, I was invited to hang out with Cassandra and her family. Her step father came into town for the birth since she was getting closer to dilation, and had rented a place on the beach. I was honored to be honest. I met her at her house, and we all drove over there. During this time towards the end of the night Mike had brought up the contract, said he had lost it, and would like to look at it again. Sadly I didn’t have one on me at the time though.
July 21st, Mike contacted me and said it didn’t go through. So I put the entire contract online, on my website. I sent him the link and the password to my contract.
July 22nd, Cassandra went into labor.
July 25th, I messaged Cassandra and asked her if she was up for her son’s newborn session on Tuesday July 28th, this would make him 7 days old. I scheduled them for 9:30am in the morning, to which Cassandra agree’d. I then messaged Mike to let him know as well, but also before I get the little guy in the studio I needed the contract signed and payment.
July 26th, I sent Mike a paypal invoice of $675.00. As to which was never paid.
July 27th, I messaged Cassandra and asked if she could get her dad to sign the contract and payment. She told me he was working on it. This is our conversation here.
July 28th, Cassandra never showed up for her newborn session.
Between the dates of July 29th, and August 5th Cassandra continued to message me wondering if her step father had signed the contract or made payment. I continued to tell her no, as I can see who logs into my contract online and who doesn’t. August 5th it was explained again how many images were to be given for birth, and that I need contract to be signed. This can be viewed here.
August 12th, this was the last time I had heard from Mike as he apologized for not getting back with me. Here is our conversation.
I had received numerous messages from Cassandra apologizing for her step father still not reviewing contract or paying the session fee. However the last message I did receive from Cassandra was September 3rd, which can be viewed here. Which had asked me to still try and photograph her son, even though he wasn’t under 10 days old. At this time I STILL have not had the contract reviewed, or signed, and payment STILL was not received.
I never answered Cassandra back, as I was really hurt at the fact that she would still ask for images to be taken without payment, or even without the contract being signed. This was the exact same thing Melissa had done with me.
September 18th, Cassandra messaged Jessica (her and I became business partners) saying how unprofessional I was, and how I took precious moments from her and ran with them. For the last 5 months I have been asking for payment and the contract to be signed. Multiple times I asked Mike if there were ANY concerns. Not once was I ever confronted with anything. It was then September 18th, I took Cassandra off my personal facebook.
September 18th, Cassandra had messaged Melissa Canales complaining about my services. Melissa Canales decided to message Jessica (my business partner) telling her that my husband was a registered sexual predator (which is false, he is not), and how I did have done what I did to her to Cassandra and 5 other people. It was at that point, as Jessica and I were sitting across from each other, that I blocked Cassandra from contacting me.
I did call the cops, and the cops had called Melissa telling her she had the wrong guy. They proceeded to tell her that she could face stalking charges if she keeps this up, her response was “What about my friends”, the officer told her to make the right call.
At first I felt as though Cassandra was a true genuine person. However after piecing all this together, I figured out that neither her, nor her father ever had the intentions of paying me. Unfortunately though this entire mess has caused a huge rift.
Cassandra, Melissa and her friends (one which I will not name) has now messaged my current clients, future clients, and past clients discrediting my family, my business name, and myself.
My husband is a CDL truck driver, we own our own company. And unfortunately no one is smart enough to put two and two together. When you have a CDL your record has to be clean, you can’t even have a DUI on it. But because this was a way to detour clients away from my business, and destroy my family, Melissa Canales still hasn’t stopped. Being accused of a Sexual Predator is a serious accusation, especially since Melissa and her friends are blasting this around town and messaging my clients this. This isn’t just a complaint or them trashing ME as a person, but they are tearing my entire family apart. My own husband refuses to be home or even near any of my clients here ever again because of this accusation.
I appreciate everyone’s support in all of this mess. I do apologize to those who are involved, I had no idea that two girls were going to be like this. I thought that Melissa had moved on after she paid me finally and received her images. I also thought that Cassandra would have never of done this. As you can see multiple times her step father was told on how many images she would receive for her birth, Cassandra was also told how many images she would receive.
And if either of them had viewed my contract, both would have seen how many images were received for birth. But my contract was never logged into, or viewed. Both girls have tried so hard to discredit and destroy my family as they did not get what they wanted, free images and free sessions.
I am not quitting photography, but because of these two I have lost my passion and creativity for something so beautiful, that they have turned so ugly. I have bent over backwards for both of these two, I went against my policies and bent rules, this is my fault and right now I am regretting ever photographing either one’s session. I am beyond exhausted. I need to protect my family now from this harassment from both girls. The reason why names are posted, is because both girls have decided to go after my entire family with false accusations, blasting my name and my families number all over.
I will continue photography in a different place, I will finish up my clients that I have now, and my family and I will move on. All I ever wanted to do is to create art… and both girls managed to take the beauty out of it.
Again, thank you to those who have continued to support me. I truly am grateful for everyone. My lesson has been learned, and I will no longer become emotionally involved or become friends with clients ever again. This will be my last blog other than two more sessions that I have completed.
Bless you all,