Brides baying for blood

Wedding day blues as photographer fails to produce albums of nuptials

AN elusive wedding photographer has left a trail of fuming brides baying for her blood – and their precious wedding pictures – after ruining their special day by not delivering albums of their nuptials.

The angry group of eight brides and two grooms – from Botswana to Cape Town – have now joined forces to expose Erna Loock, formerly of Thornhill, and warn other couples.

But dozens of other newlyweds have also been struggling to get their hands on wedding pictures Loock snapped.

In some cases, after a protracted battle, couples have received their photographs – only to find they could have taken better shots with their cellphones.

One irate groom has already opened a fraud case with the police against Loock after she failed to deliver pictures, while three more brides plan to follow suit.

Others have resorted to a private investigator or lawyers to track down their pictures.

On one occasion, Loock took her parents to a luxury Botswana wedding venue and asked her clients to accommodate them, saying her father was her assistant.

Loock, a former attorney, moved from Thornhill to Johannesburg last year, where she works at Professional Career Services as a recruiter.

But this week none of Loock’s known cellphone numbers worked. She did not return messages left at her office, nor did she answer six e-mails sent to each of her known e-mail addresses.

Roy Booyens, of Kreativ Studios, whose company was hired in 2013 to improve Loock’s online brand, said he had had to help about 40 couples retrieve their wedding pictures.

“I have distanced myself from her,” he said.

Booyens said Loock had often told brides that their photo albums had been stolen from her car.

“Meanwhile, the albums were at Photobook House. She just didn’t pay for them,” he said.

Hazel Grey, from Photobook House, said they had had a lot of albums commissioned by Loock but had to wait a long time for payment.

“Eventually she paid for them and the brides came to collect.”

Deidre Rautenbach and her husband Stefan, 34, were married in November last year.

After a long struggle to get their pictures, Rautenbach drove to Thornhill to collect them in person.

She received two CDs but is still waiting for her albums.

“She always has an excuse. I am opening a fraud case against her.”

Rautenbach said she had eventually figured out the only way to get an answer from Loock was to send her a cute dog picture.

“It is a bit weird, I know, but she loves dogs.”

Amy van Heerden, 38, of Port Elizabeth, married Damian, 31, on January 9.

She said Loock had solicited up-front payment from them, saying she was buying a special lens.

Van Heerden said she had been very disappointed when she received a disk with low-resolution pictures.

“Many are off-colour. We never received our albums. When I told her it was fraud she said she was a lawyer. “I could have taken better pictures with my cellphone and it has a cracked screen,” Van Heerden said.

Eden Nell, 39, who married Allison, 29, in April, said he had sent friends to Loock in Johannesburg to collect their wedding pictures disk, but they had never received the albums they paid for.

Roenel van den Broek, 28, of Jeffreys Bay, said she had booked Loock in November last year for her upcoming wedding on October 22 and paid a deposit.

But eventually she took out a loan to hire a new photographer when she could not get in touch with Loock who only came back to Van den Broek recently, a month before the wedding.

“When I am back from honeymoon I am taking her on. She broke her contract. We paid for a pre-wedding shoot months before the wedding but I could never find her.”

“I want my deposit back.” Tamsin Tetzner, from Botswana, said they were still waiting for their albums after a year – and had only received a DVD with pictures “that do not look professional”.

Their wedding was held at Tuli Safari Lodge in Botswana and Loock brought her parents.

“She said her father was her assistant. She then wanted us to pay for her mother’s accommodation too. We refused.”

Samantha Mouton, of Cape Town, had to use a private detective and her father-in-law Advocate Pieter Mouton’s legal skills to get her wedding pictures, but some are still missing.

She said some of the pictures she received were embarrassing.

“I had such high expectations. She needs to be exposed,” Mouton said.

She said Loock had changed the name of her business from Erna Loock Photography to Stella Blanca Photography, then deleted both Facebook pages, saying that she was rebranding.

Duncan Rodgers, 40, opened the fraud case with the Walmer police station on October 10.

“I attached the 98 pages of correspondence and WhatsApp messages to my police statement.”

He said after several threats they had received some photo albums which were terrible.

Jenni Strobos, 33, said she was waiting for the next bride whose wedding would be photographed by Loock to let her know about it.

“I will gather all of the disgruntled brides. We will wait at the venue and block her way when she tries to leave. If I see her again I will have to restrain myself not to assault her.”

Strobos said when she and her husband Mark, 33, returned from their honeymoon earlier this year he had been diagnosed with cancer.

It took a threat of legal action for them to get a disk of pictures.

There were only “one or two beautiful pictures”, Strobos said.

Police spokesman Warrant Officer Alwin Labans confirmed a fraud case had been opened.


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