Local Photographer Accused of Turning Special Moments into Misery

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It was supposed to be a secret: a boudoir photo shoot for her husband, to celebrate the couple’s tenth wedding anniversary. Now, “My anniversary is completely tainted,” says Ashlyn Armistead. She shared some of the work-safe photos from her intimate shoot. As her anniversary approached, she panicked. Unable, she says, to get in touch with the woman she paid $500 to take the pictures: Charlotte-area photographer, Eben Patten.

Armistead says, “I felt very violated because she had taken these very intimate photos of me, and I felt like she had power over me in that sense. Armistead says she had to tell her husband about the surprise gift, so he could help get the pictures. “And she lied to him, and said I would have the photos.” Armistead eventually got her photos, but, she says, not without a fight.

“I didn’t get any video of my wedding day,” says Katy Negroni. She took Eben Patten to court, and won, after waiting for months before finally getting her wedding pictures. Some were good, but others were blurry, framed poorly, or just odd, like a picture of the floor. A judge ordered Patten to pay Negroni back nearly $2,000, plus interest, for the photos, and the missing video. Negroni says, “She hasn’t paid me. I haven’t gotten a refund. I haven’t received a dime from her.”

York, SC resident Angel Mercado’s now-fiance paid Patten $700 to shoot his marriage proposal. Mercado says, “It’s just tainted. It’s not the same.” It took months of begging, and then threatening legal action, before Mercado says she finally got her photos, some of which were beautiful, others, bizarre. Mercado says, “I never asked for a discount. I never asked for a refund. I just wanted the pictures. And she had the whole time but she put me through the ringer for five months just because she could.”

The same story, again and again and again. Another client won a session with Patten at a charity auction. After weeks of attempts to get the pictures, the client says Patten, “…messaged me saying her car was stolen and we’d have to redo the shoot.” She says she never received any photos from patten.

Another client who hired Patten says after begging Patten for weeks for her pictures, “The only reason I got them is because I threatened to expose her.”

Charlotte blogger Jenna Gribble says she paid Patten $200 for photos for her website, and says she also had to beg to get them. She says, “I had to keep calling her and texting her, over and over, I would get no response, and I finally got the pictures about three months later.”

Many of Eben Patten’s former clients tell WCCB they hired Patten because they felt they knew her personally, or because they were referred to her by friends. Some signed contracts. Others didn’t. None of them say they knew about her F rating with the Better Business Bureau, or multiple bad reviews.

The North Carolina Attorney General is now involved. Josh Stein sent WCCB a statement, saying in part: “Several brides have contacted my office about this issue. I’m concerned about what we’ve heard and I am looking into it.”

WCCB asked Charlotte attorney Toni Primiano about whether small claims court would be worth it in a situation like this. She says: yes. “It’s $96 to file the paperwork and $30 to serve it by sheriff, so it’s definitely reasonable and you don’t need an attorney in magistrate court,” says Primiano. Primiano says photography contracts should include whether you get all the pictures from the shoot, whether the photographer holds the copyright, the time frame you’ll get your pictures back, and whether touch-ups or editing costs extra. Primiano says, “If you can afford to have an attorney look at the contract, you always wanna do it on the front end, because on the back end, it does cost more if you have to litigate it.”

Patten’s business website isn’t working. On her business Facebook page, she posted, in part, that she isn’t accepting new work and she is working to resolve client issues. After WCCB contacted her multiple times, Patten did reply, declining to go on camera, but writing in part, “I am heads down working to respond to the North Carolina DOJ regarding a small number of customer complaints that have been received by their office.”

Gribble says, “I kinda feel like it’s too little, too late.”

One of the women who talked with WCCB says she got a letter from Patten this week, with an offer to resolve her complaint. She tells us she is turning the offer down, and taking her chances on the Attorney General’s office, saying, like you just heard: it’s too little, too late.