Nova Scotia·CBC Investigates

Halifax photo company takes money, then leaves Dal grads out of the picture

Some Dalhousie University graduates who paid hundreds of dollars for grad photos five months ago are wondering if they’ll ever see what they paid for.

'It's definitely frustrating. I never really expected to deal with something like that'

About Image Photography is still advertising grad photos outside its closed office on Spring Garden Road in Halifax. (Yvonne Colbert/CBC)

Some Dalhousie University graduates who paid hundreds of dollars for grad photos five months ago are wondering if they'll ever see what they paid for.

They've made repeated attempts to contact Halifax company About Image Photography and its owner, David Gamble, with no response.

Both Zack Taylor and Thalia Moors also had their pictures taken in March, each paying About Image Photography approximately $200. 

Moors said her multiple phone calls and emails have been ignored. 

"It's definitely frustrating," Moors said. "I never really expected to deal with something like that. I mean, if someone is a business providing a service you expect them to do just that."

Thalia Moors has been unable to reach About Image Photography after paying the company approximately $200 for her grad photos. (Robert Short/CBC)

Taylor, who has also tried several times to reach the company, said he's tried to be understanding because of the pandemic, but that it is getting harder to do.

"I think five or six months since then has been more than enough time to be able to get the products to myself and lots of other people who I know are going through the same thing," he said.

He notes they are simply asking for the digital file of their photo, which they purchased.

Zack Taylor is one of 10 Dal grads who paid a combined $2000-plus to About Image Photography for graduation photos that were never delivered. (Robert Short/CBC)

Gillian Ward has been waiting even longer.

She heard good reviews from some students at the university about the company, so she booked in January. Like the others, Ward has not received what she paid for and Gamble has not responded to her inquiries.

She said she really liked the photos and, without a graduation, they were an important reminder of the work she put in to earn her degree.

"Even if he could tell me what was going on with them, I'd be happy with that and then I could know at least what happened," she said.

In all, CBC spoke with 10 Dal grads who paid a combined $2,000-plus for photos they haven't received. 

About Image Photography was promoted to students by the Dalhousie Student Union Management Society.

On Feb. 28, someone named Tori sent a message from the email of Margie Muise with the DSU Management Society  encouraging students to sign up. 

"Slots will fill up quickly so hurry up and get your name on the list!" the email said. 

CBC has tried to contact Muise, as well as others with the society, to find out who made the decision to use About Image Photography. Muise has not responded and CBC has been unable to reach anyone with the society.

An internet search shows the company's business registration in Nova Scotia was revoked for non-payment by the Registry of Joint Stocks in 2012.

It shows David Gamble as the recognized agent. Gamble is the owner of the company and the photographer. He also operated a numbered business which was revoked for non-payment in 2014.

Phone out of service

The company's listed phone number is now out of service. 

Its current business address on Spring Garden Road in Halifax has a sign on the door saying it is closed until further notice because of the pandemic. It advises customers to contact them via their website, which is not working.

The sign on the door of About Image Photography refers people to the company's website, which is not operational. Its phone is also out of service. (Yvonne Colbert/CBC)

The company is rated F with the Better Business Bureau, where similar complaints have been filed.

In some instances, the company has responded to the customer's satisfaction. In other cases, it has not responded at all.

While it has some good Google reviews, it also has negative ones. They include complaints about paying for photos that never arrived.

Another Dalhousie University department also has previous experience with About Image Photography.

In 2019, the company took grad photos for Dal law school graduates. Some of them also had problems getting their  photos.

The law graduation committee has tried to work with the company but CBC hasn't been able to get details about the number of affected students and whether they all received their photos.

'It really makes me wonder'

It's left students like Dong Ngo asking why their society didn't take a closer look before promoting the business.

"It really makes me wonder if anyone at Dal was looking into this matter because I just did a basic Google search and found all these bad reviews,"  Ngo said.

A Dalhousie spokesperson said the student union is independent of the university.

Dong Ngo had his grad photos taken, but has not received anything and the company has not told him when he might receive them. (Robert Short/CBC)

Ngo had his photo taken on one of three days booked for grad photos by the company after he paid a $35 sitting fee. Ngo said the photographer seemed professional and "very legitimate" at the time, although his impression has changed.

The company has not charged Ngo for the photos themselves, but he is uncertain whether he will ever get them. 

"We have a wall in our living room where there is my sister's grad photo and her diploma. My diploma is up now but there's just an empty space beside her photo without my picture," Ngo said.

"My dad always asks me when it's going to come but I just don't have an answer."

About Image Photography responds

CBC repeatedly tried to reach Gamble, but he did not respond.

One day after the story was published, CBC received an unsigned email from About Image Photography.

"The mental and financial toll of this has been extremely difficult to deal with, and has been an ongoing factor in the issues of communicating to clients," the statement said.

It said it has issued letters to "the handful of clients who are affected," telling them to check their credit card statements "as no charges have been made." It said clients who previously opted for a discounted digital file product can order it via email and they have been provided that information, adding the site is only functional for existing clients.

The statement also said the company has not collected any money from any orders made after March 25

The statement apologized for the delays and the stress caused to customers. 

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Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said Dong Ngo was charged $283 for graduation photos he did not receive. In fact, his credit card was not charged. This story has been corrected.
    Aug 26, 2020 1:41 PM AT

About the Author

Yvonne Colbert

Consumer Watchdog

Yvonne Colbert has been a journalist for nearly 35 years, covering everything from human interest stories to the provincial legislature. These days she helps consumers navigate an increasingly complex marketplace and avoid getting ripped off. She invites story ideas at yvonne.colbert@cbc.ca

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