Ruta Smith

My days as the Charleston City Paper staff photographer can be long, crazy, and unpredictable, but one thing never changes: Every Wednesday morning you will find me in a local coffee shop or business running in and grabbing the newest issue. Over the following few minutes is when I see which pictures were chosen by the editorial and art departments to go to print. Most of the time, I quickly look through and nod my head, agreeing with the pictures I see. However, there are times when I see that my favorite images didn’t make it and I sigh, wondering if it was the composition, the crop, or the orientation that made the team go with a different shot.

Working at City Paper is by far the most exciting and challenging thing I have ever been a part of and I absolutely love to be “in the know” and meet the coolest people in Charleston. I was a fan of CP for years before I started working here and I remember seeing previous photographer Jonathan Boncek’s annual “Images that didn’t make the cut” feature, so when I was given the opportunity to do the same, I could not wait to go back through my photos and share them with readers. Cheers, everyone. Here are a handful that didn’t make the cut in 2019. 

Everyone loves donuts so I was ecstatic to get my assignment to photograph local donut shops. Fractured Prune makes every kid’s dream come true.

Showing up to an empty restaurant to meet a chef never gets old. If you are a fan of O-Ku, then you know at any given time during service you are lucky to get a table. The day I met Chef Junior, I immediately knew I would want to photograph him preparing sushi behind the bar.

When I got assigned this story about cold brew coffee, I thought, “Easy, peasy. Shooting coffee … Everyone does it on their phones.” Two shoots in, I was very frustrated! I had to do more research and learn how the temperature of the coffee and the consistency of the milk interacted. This picture is an example of what I wanted to achieve: Great light and the perfect moment of the cream hitting the cold brew.

When I was taking this picture, I thought to myself, “This is going to be the cover: The light, composition, and colors are amazing.” I was amazed to find out it didn’t even make it into the paper. This view is what I thought represented the story: an architecturally dynamic neighborhood in downtown Charleston.

Dashi in North Charleston has some of the best light to photograph anything. With restaurant shoots during business hours, I don’t have much time to play with light and composition, but it was a lovely winter afternoon and the light was hitting at just the right angle.

As I wandered through the greenhouse at Meeting Green waiting to photograph owner Kendal Leonard for a story about local plant shops, I saw this lizard and snapped a quick picture. TIP: Check your plants for mating lizards when you shop at Meeting Green.

I was very interested to hear the angle of this story involving local chefs working on fishing boats. I’d previously photographed chef Emily Hahn in restaurants and farmers markets, and when I saw her on the dock at Miss Paula’s, she looked truly happy. You could see it in her eyes. She didn’t pose for any photos, but even in this picture she’s smiling.

How the hell did this picture from Butcher & Bee not run? It captured the perfect moment, the perfect setup — what the perfect bite should look like.

This shot of an oyster farmer wouldn’t normally run — you can’t see his face and you can’t really tell he’s just playing around. But it was just too much fun watching him, biting our nails hoping he wouldn’t fall!

I grew up in a small town and my grandma’s neighbors had cows. I would spend so much time with the cows that I would smell like cow shit that my mom wouldn’t let me back into the house. Spending my day with the cows at Lowcountry Creamery brought me back to being younger. Farm shoots are definitely my favorite thing. I love bringing awareness to local farmers and chefs working together.

Without a doubt, Kanika Moore is a powerhouse of a woman. She showed me this white dress she had and I knew we could get something great if we went to the top of this parking garage for a City Paper Music Awards shoot. Every time I clicked the shutter, Kanika delivered.

This was one of my favorite assignments for CP. While shooting for this story about the RiverDogs I got to see the real behind the scenes; it was fascinating. There were so many great pictures that didn’t make it into the story, and I thought this one was definitely worth sharing.

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