Midlands photographer Charles Hite will tell you a picture needs no words to tell a story. Hite’s work is getting increasing attention, but his real joy is in feeling closer to God with every frame.
By Taylor Estes
April 24, 2017
Where others see a picture, photographer Charles Hite sees a story.
They are pictures like those he’s taken of the old St. Simon’s Episcopal Church in Peak, along the Broad River northwest of Columbia. The church, established in the late 1800s, was abandoned during the Great Depression of the 1920s.
“I came to see the church, and I was just in awe of how old it was. I couldn’t help but think, ‘What happened to it?’” Hite says.
Since Hite, 65, put down his surveying and mapping tools for a camera more than 10 years ago, his work has gotten increasing notice. His photos are for sale at the Nest gift shop in downtown Columbia, and they hang on the walls of the Hyatt Place on Gervais and Henry’s Bar and Grill on Devine Street.
His photos were also part of Columbia Metropolitan Airport’s Arts at the Airport exhibit in late 2014. Hite’s were the only photographs featured.
The 2012-2013 Cayce city calendar also featured one of his pictures on the cover and a few inside.
Hite “has an appreciation for local nature that comes across so well in his photos,” says Nest owner Emile DeFelice, who also runs the weekend Soda City Market on Main Street.
Hite says he tried several jobs after graduating from Brookland-Cayce High School in 1967 before getting a degree in land surveying and mapping from Midlands Tech. But discovering photography, he says, gave him a spiritual direction.
“I realized that this was my purpose,” says Hite, who, with his wife, Katty, is active in Cayce United Methodist Church. “To appreciate God’s creations and share the images with people.”
Hite says he started out as many people do “as just a dad taking snapshots of my children.”
“But then I found that my passion was taking pictures of nature and pictures of old things,” Hite says.” The older I get, the more I’m drawn to old things it seems.”
“I love old buildings, old structures. There’s something about them that makes me interested,” he says.
Hite seeks them out on photography day trips with his wife. These trips also often take them out into nature, one of Hite’s favorite places to be.
“I used to be in such a rush, never stopping to appreciate what was all around me,” he says.
Hite says the technical nature of his earlier career helped once he took up photography full time.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a creative person,” he says. “I just follow basic photography lines – rule of thirds, all that.”
But he is spiritual, and, Hite says, “Photography has allowed me to feel closer to God.” And the special thing about nature photography, he says, “is that even if someone does not have a particular faith, they’re still able to enjoy God’s creations just by admiring the beauty of the picture.”
Hite says he wasn’t always so open to sharing his work until family and friends urged him to try selling some of it.
“My wife was especially persistent about that,” he says with a laugh.
Even though Hite had shared prints of his photos with family and friends, he said he made his first official sale by selling a photo – to a stranger – in December 2012. “It was like, ‘Wow, somebody liked my picture enough to buy it.’ I was very excited.”
That also allowed him to share the stories behind the photos. “I love selling at the Soda City Market and having people ask me questions about the pictures,” Hite says.
“I’m incredibly lucky to be doing something I love, and if I can make a little money out of it, that’s nice too,” he says. “But there’s nothing like that feeling of being out in nature with my camera.”