The Pensacola Museum of Art is showing “America’s Everglades: Through the Lens of Clyde Butcher”.
The traveling exhibition, which features 35 images of the famous nature photographer Clyde butcherreflects over 30 years of working with a large format black and white camera in the Florida Everglades.
“What I love to do is photograph nature that hasn’t been manipulated by man,” said Butcher. “I find primordial places. This is the kind of thing I’m looking for, nothing artificial. “
Printed on paper and enlarged to show detail, Butcher’s photography goes beyond just the detail of the beauty of the Everglades. They tell the story of an ecosystem rarely seen by man.
“I’ve been photographing the Everglades since 1984 and I’ve never met another person out there,” said Butcher. “That’s how primitive the Everglades are.”
Inspired by the work of landscape and environmental photographer Ansel Adams, Butcher began photographing landscapes in black and white in the late 1960s. He would soon leave his architectural career to exhibit his photographs at art festivals, later selling his color photographs as wall decorations to department stores.
One thing that sets Butcher apart from other photographers is that he uses an 8 “by 10” viewfinder camera from the early 1940s. When he started photographing the Everglades, other camera options simply wouldn’t have done it for him.
“The only way I could do the prints was with a large camera,” Butcher said. “Thirty-five millimeters was not enough information to do the print I wanted to do. I didn’t use it by choice; it was the only thing available. “
In 1986, Butcher’s life changed forever when his 17-year-old son, Ted, was killed by a drunk driver. During his mourning, he found solace in Great Cypress National Reserve in South Florida, where the spiritual connection with nature helped repair his soul.
After the death of his son, he vowed to completely abandon color film and work only in black and white.
“Color is a Xerox copy of nature and black and white is an interpretation,” said Butcher. “When you look at a black and white photograph, everything is one. The environment is also one, everything works together “.
The photographs on display in this exhibition convey Butcher’s determination and passion for the environment. He and his wife, Niki, would often walk the swamps of the Everglades, lugging his camera and equipment totaling over 100 pounds.
For photos like “Cigar Orchid Pond”, the two would return to the same place over and over again, waiting for the perfect shot.
“Every New Year, Niki and I took a walk in the swamp to start the year off right,” Butcher said. “I saw this composition and this area, about a two hour walk behind my gallery, on January 1, 2000. I went back every year for nine years before shooting and everything was fine.”
Other large-format images, including “Moonrise”, symbolize more than just awe of the Everglades.
“It was the first photograph that Clyde made in black and white in the Everglades after the death of his son,” said Anna Wall, chief curator of the Pensacola Museum of Art. “It really reflects this new way of working for him, and also his pain and what the Everglades have begun to mean to him as a place of comfort and solace after this horrific life event. “
“I wasn’t getting them to sell, I was getting them because I wanted to get them,” Butcher said. “When I switched to black and white photography, I thought the sales were going to be terrible, so I just photographed what I wanted to photograph. I think it works with most of the art, if you do what you want to do and not what people want you to do, it works for the best.
Also on display is one of Butcher’s old 12 ”x 20” viewfinder cameras, which gives guests the opportunity to get behind the scenes and see how Butcher composes his photographs.
Throughout his career, Butcher has worked alongside other photographers, naturalists and conservationists to capture the fascinating beauty of the natural world. Her photographs have been shown in exhibitions in the United States and at the National Gallery of Art in Prague.
In her own words, Butcher “hopes to use her images to share the special beauty of the Everglades, allowing her to find a place in our hearts, motivating us to help save her.”
He believes that nature and man have an eternal connection.
“My photography helped the politicians here in Florida save the Everglades,” Butcher said. “Before I started photographing the Everglades, people thought it was just a dreary, muddy place, they didn’t realize it was beautiful and worth fighting to preserve. He was very instrumental in working to save the Everglades and hopefully save other places in the world as well. “
Butcher often works behind him gallery to Big Cypress Swamp, a nature reserve that borders the Everglades. Over the years, he has become familiar with the layout of the land.
“It has this really cool philosophy that the world is round, which means what we do in our area of the world isn’t isolated,” Wall said. “It affects others beyond borders and oceans.”
Though devoted to photographing precious landscapes around the world, Butcher will increasingly identify with the Everglades. Through his photography of him, he hopes to educate the public by bringing environmental issues to the fore, as well as inspiring people to visit wildlife areas.
“I hope this exhibit inspires people to not only visit the Everglades, but also to engage with our local Florida landscape to support the conservation of our areas, wildlife and wildlife,” Wall said. “I hope that people have a greater respect for the world around us and I think that with so much division today, we can all gather around our environment, our landscape and preserve it for the future.”
“America’s Everglades: Through the Lens of Clyde Butcher” is on display at the Pensacola Museum of Art until September 18. The museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 to 16:00 and on Sundays from noon to 16:00
For more information on the Pensacola Museum of Art, click here.