Why is Charleston special to you? What is your quintessential Holy City experience? These are the questions that we posed to City Paper readers when we announced this year's photography contest, our ninth endeavor. They are tough questions for sure. For some, the answer could be a scenic sunset walk along the Battery. For others, it could be marching in lockstep on the grounds of the Citadel. And for a few — OK, more than a few — it's chowing down on brunch at A.C.'s while nursing a really nasty hangover. It doesn't matter. It's your Charleston. Enjoy.
First Place ($200) - Diana Deaver, "Vertex"
- Diana Deaver
- "Vertex" - I did a whole photographic project on the Ravenel Bridge because it's connecting two cities; it's practically a connection between Mt. Pleasant and Charleston, and I like that concept of things that connect, and, to me, things have a soul. I try to capture many different views of a person, and in this case, it's a bridge. There are several exits that are becoming one ... We consider so many different directions, and we ultimately choose one.
Judges' comments: "Vertex" is a well-crafted photograph that brings to life a seldom-seen view of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge. The dusky hues work perfectly for this unconventional, late-night take on a Charleston icon.
Second Place ($100) - Stephen Blackmon, "Diana"
- Stephen Blackmon
- "Diana" - I spend a lot of my time walking around and taking pictures of the most random things around Charleston, like architecture and people. I actually talk to some of these guys on the street, like one of the guys playing an instrument or this old man sitting on a bench even though he's just passing by. When I hear "Charleston," I think of some of the people who walk the streets every day and a lot of people don't even stop to talk to them, so I do.
Judges' comments: A colorful entry with a strong palette. Judges were particularly impressed with its composition and how well it conveyed a real moment in time.
Third Place ($50) - Diana Deaver, "Charleston Bay"
- Diana Deaver
- "Charleston Bay" - One of my favorite things about Charleston is the sky and how open it is. There are no skyscrapers, so you can see how beautiful the clouds are. It was the most incredible feeling. I felt grateful for living where I am and being able to witness the beauty.
Judges' comments: Sunsets are a photographic mainstay — perhaps too much so. But here the panel was sold on this image of a "non-beach" sunset. With the horizon low and the sky dominant in the frame, this shot is a strong, richly hued interpretation of a snapshot cliche.
Honorable Mention ($25) - Abigail Marie Miller, "Friends in Folly"
- Abigail Marie Miller
- "Friends in Folly" - It's always been a treasure for me to go to the beach with friends and walk on the beach, relax, or swim. It's personal to me being with just one friend.
Judges' comments: A composition that drew strong responses for its timeless depiction of a human moment.
Honorable Mention ($25) - Hank James, "Full-Dress Uniform"
- Hank James
- "Full-Dress Uniform" - The uniform actually belonged to a close friend of mine, Michael Murphy, who died three weeks ago. A bunch of our closest friends and me got his full-dress uniform and put our class rings on his coat. To me, Murphy and our friends are my Charleston.
Judges' comments: This photo won praise for making a connection to Charleston history. With its shallow depth of field and vibrant color palette, the judges felt it pulled viewers into the subject.
First Place ($200) - Bridget Hinkebein, "Looking Down"
- Bridget Hinkebein
- "Looking Down" - We were on the Carnival Cruise that came to Charleston. It was coming toward the end of the cruise and I just had to take in that last shot before the trip was over.
Judges' comments: The judges felt this was an immediately striking image and noted the textural quality of the watery foam. The blue/orange contrast struck one panel member — "Fabulous!"
Second Place ($100) - LeAnn Cannon, "Lily's Red Balloon"
- LeAnn Cannon
- "Lily's Red Balloon" - My inspiration was the beauty of the beach and the last few lyrics of the song "99 Red Balloons" — "If I could find a souvenir/Just to prove the world was here/Here it is, a red balloon/I think of you and let it go."
Judges' comments: "Thank you for color!" said one of the judges. A monochromatic feel lends iconic status to this photographic moment.
Third Place ($50) - Charlie Todd Nunn, Untitled
- Charlie Todd Nunn
- Untitled - I was just eating at Vickery's, and I just saw this picture as a great opportunity to capture.
Judges' comments: With its "powerful, deep colors," this image impressed the panel who also noted the patience required to achieve this level of simplicity.
Honorable Mention ($25) - Charlie Todd Nunn, Untitled (stairs in the sand dunes)
- Charlie Todd Nunn
- Untitled - I took this picture at Isle of Palms. I saw the stairs just sitting in the middle dunes, and it looked like it was inviting everyone to come and enjoy the simplistic beauty of the beach.
Judges' comments: A classic composition with a muted palette lending it a nostalgic feel. "This," one of the judges remarked, "is how to use Photoshop filters."
Honorable Mention ($25) - Robert Donovan, "Big Honkin'"
- Robert Donovan
- "Big Honkin'" - This particular picture was on the naval ship yard in an old building with a really old piece of machinery from 20 years ago. When they shut down the building back then, they just locked the doors and left everything in there. They're in the process of reopening the area, so it's kind of like the old Charleston turning into the new Charleston.
Judges' comments: The panel noted how effective lighting helped to create what appeared to be an entertaining fantasy: a steampunk moment drawn from real life.
Photographer Ben Williams arrived in Charleston just over three years ago and quickly made a name for himself. Since settling in the Holy City, Williams has been busy shooting for the City Paper and Charleston magazine. When he's not working behind the lens, Williams can be found relaxing at downtown coffee shops or cruising around town on his bike.
Leslie Ryann McKellar decided she wanted to be a photographer well after she earned a degree in English. After pretending to be a writer for a few post-college years, she picked up a camera and hasn't seen the world the same since. Her work has been featured in Charleston magazine, the Charleston City Paper, College of Charleston Magazine, and Oblique.
Photographer Joshua Curry got his start shooting skateboarding for Santa Cruz Skateboards in the late '80s. Since then, he's covered the Rodney King riots, hurricanes, and the odd plate of food. Joshua works as the web editor at Charleston City Paper.