The title I hold at the City Paper is staff photographer. I think of it more as creative problem solver. I typically have limited time, I don’t know the subject, and only a snippet of the context in which I am photographing the subject. This is the exciting aspect of this job. It is a chance to be creative in a finite time all the while making a compelling image. When I was in art school, we would have weeks, months, and sometimes even a semester to work through a project to create compelling images. Well, this is the real world of a weekly publication. We have to turn and burn photoshoots. Not only am I shooting the images, I am contacting the subjects, coming up with concepts, and sourcing props or locations if the shoot calls for those. I love the pressure that the time constraints put on me. Those parameters give me a chance to create constantly. Sure the process could become formulaic, but when I become aware of the formula is usually when an assignment will throw me a curve ball. No matter the location, the light available, the time of the shoot, I have to create a photograph.

I’ve been the staff photographer for almost six years. This job has undoubtedly attributed to my success as a photographer outside of the City Paper. I have loved the job, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity. If you’re a follower of the City Paper, you might have noticed that my contributions have been less and less since the 2017 Best of Charleston due to family commitments and my other business. In order to make up for the gap in my absence, we’ve used a network of freelancers to help out. For this year’s “Photos That Didn’t Run”, I wanted to show them my appreciation by including some of their favorite shots in this feature. Ruta Elvikyte, Michael Campina, and Keely Laughlin have picked up the slack and offered their own creative vision with assignments.

The time has come in my photographic career to pursue the next level on the journey. When this prints, I will have moved to a freelance position for the paper. The only consistent assignment I will have is the weekly culinary review shoot. Food photography has become the focus of my camera, and to contribute in the future for CP in the culinary realm is right in my wheelhouse. Sure, there might be a big feature that I will shoot, or maybe even the DISH dining guide, but after this I am hanging up the staff position. I reveal this as a call to action for any photographers out there who think they might have what it takes to perform this job. Not only do you have to have your own equipment, technical skills, and discipline, but also have the ability to organize and negotiate the ever changing logistics of the job. If you believe this is you, send examples of your work to our Art Director Scott Suchy. I should add, I am forever grateful to Scott. I sent a blind email when I moved to Charleston in 2011 to the City Paper letting them know that I was looking for work. Scott responded with a lunch meeting, at which he offered me an assignment. The rest is history. Thank you for seeing something in me, Suchy.

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One might not think of ‘tinned fish’ as sexy food, but Stems and Skins could argue that notion. The canned sardines are served with softened butter, arugula, flake salt, and toasted baguette. This plate brings a sophistication to this otherwise simple staple.


Joshua Fulton has one of the most unusual pets I have ever met. Mutumbo, the African Spurred tortoise was a gentle giant. I couldn’t help but smile the whole time while photographing Joshua and Mutumbo.

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Johnny Jr. had a spot in mind for his shoot. An old abandoned movie theater up on Rivers Avenue. We were unloading my gear in front of the theater when a cop sped up to confront us. I identified myself and our intentions at the theater and he quickly shut down the idea. It started to rain right after the cop left, so all we had was the overhang of the shuttered cinema. Sometimes all you need is the person. Johnny Jr. brought all I needed to create a cool image of him.

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Quis KingSoul had just seen the movie It prior to our shoot. He wanted to play off the creepy film while letting his vibrant personality shine through. I didn’t plan the balloons, or the outfit. We met under the Ravenel Bridge and shot this midday. I loved the results.


My assignment was to photograph Patrick Dougherty at the Gibbes Museum of Art while he was completing his installation of twigs at the rear of the gallery. I didn’t think too much of the assignment at first. As soon as I arrived I was in awe at what the artist was creating. With the help of his son Sam, who helped cultivate the massive amounts of sticks locally, they were constructing a giant sculpture utilizing the natural material. The three story sculpture was held together with just the tension of the sticks alone.

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My favorite thing about photographing musicians is that they always seem to be open to something new or slightly out of the box and oftentimes will introduce their own creative ideas to the shoot. This photograph is from the “Fresh Produce” feature on Charleston area music producers. After a great shoot with producer of Coast Records, Matt Zutell, I asked if he was willing to do something a little bit fun and different, and — for sure he was. I noticed he had some great artwork on his walls and mentioned it would be cool to see him suspended in mid-air in front of this great imagery. He was totally up for it and literally jumped right to it. I would find out later that Matt broke his bed frame performing this stunt. Thanks Matt! And sorry about that, haha. – Michael Campina

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When shooting the music ‘splash’ page, one of the biggest challenges is finding a location to conduct that shoot that represents the musician’s vibe. DJ DIZ and DJ Mosaic mentioned that they would love to shoot at Krispy Kreme since their show was a J Dilla tribute — J Dilla’s last album was called Donuts. The album was released three days prior to his death in 2006. I reached out to Krispy Kreme to try and get access. Luckily, the donut emporium was thrilled with the idea. The result turned out to be just as sweet as the hot eats coming off the line.


The Harbinger is as cute as can be. From the interior, the back patio, to the ladies running the small Upper King Street eatery, the cafe makes you feel welcome and down right cool. This was an option for the cover of the DISH dining guide this past summer. The Harbinger brings health conscience offerings with ingredients sourced from local purveyors. This egg sandwich tasted as good as it looked. Perks of the job.

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I love all the portraits of Samira, aka DJ Sista Misses, because she’s awesome, but I really like this one. I think she radiates confidence and power. Plus, the sweet folks at The Commodore made a sexy little cocktail on the spot for us — thank you. —Keely Laughlin

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The name Howling Moon Pimps instantly made me think of some old school hip-hop video. I talked to Manny Houston about the idea of getting some ladies together and shooting at a swimming pool. He was down for it! We managed this image at a CP owner’s home pool. This photograph makes me want to hang with this crew.

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One of my favorite aspects of this job is meeting all the impressive people that the City Paper writes about throughout the year. Caroline Mauldin is just that. She was a speech writer for the Obama administration. But her resume doesn’t stop there and I know there is more to come from this passionate woman. She is also extremely well educated —and uses her education for the people.

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I photographed Aurelia Thierree, star of Spoleto’s Murmurs production, at the Spoleto Festival headquarters last spring. Aurelia didn’t have her hair done. She didn’t have wardrobe changes or even a publicist to make sure that everything looked perfect. The French actress showed up with a hat on and a her French accent. She mentioned that she wasn’t comfortable in front of the camera prior to starting. I quickly realized that she was quite the opposite. Her natural beauty showed through as soon as I clicked the shutter.

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Anfernee Robinson has the mojo to make it big. For the past two years, I’ve photographed a musician a week for the City Paper’s ‘splash’ page. The majority of the photoshoots consist of me trying to make the musicians comfortable and coaching them into poses or positions. For Anfernee that was not a problem. He had the presence of a seasoned artist. He even brought two outfits. With his sense of professionalism and personality, I know he will be successful in the music industry.

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Just the whole vibe of the shoot was like out of a movie. I entered the Fox music store and the guy in front told me “Noah is where the piano music is playing — let your ears lead the way” and I found Noah Jones in a room with some beautiful pianos and mirrors everywhere. He is a true talent! — by Ruta Elvikyte

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Al “Hollywood” Megget’s gym sits on the northside of upper King Street the same as it has for the last 30 years. This man is a legend in the boxing world. I first heard about Hollywood from my shoot with the Mobros that was held across the street from the Charleston Boxing Club. Upon loading out for the shoot, one of the brothers mentioned that we should do a story on ‘that guy’ as he pointed up to the second story window where Hollywood was sitting. Walking to my truck, Hollywood yelled down to me asking me what I was up too. “Just taking some pictures,” I responded. He then said, “Well, you should come up and take some pictures of me!” A month later, I did just that for Dustin Water’s cover story on the boxing legend. Al is 84 years young and is on a portable respirator the majority of the time. He managed to take off the medical equipment for a quick portrait. It is the portrait of him in the corner that resonates with me. Al doesn’t let his circumstance deter his dedication to his students. This is a passion that you see less and less frequently in the world today.

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The fellas from Witches and Children categorize their music as “stoner metal.” Hardcore with a side of the munchies? Whatever your flavor, these guys create powerful sounds and have fun doing what they love. This was one shoot where you start with simple ideas and other compositions start to develop. I ended up kicking back a few cold ones with the boys during this session. After the first beer, this shot came to me. Sometimes it takes a beer and some conversation for the personality of the subjects to come through.

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Shelby and Joel of Sally and George wanted their pictures to tell a story or be in the act of doing something. We discussed multiple options, but when it came down to it, the couple found an old 1933 Plymouth and the owner just happened to have a badass backyard. Happy accidents? Maybe. But an unbelievable 88-year-old car, two beautiful people in a picturesque backyard, my job is a piece of cake … today.

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