By WARREN RESEN, Florida Outdoor Writers Association member
He’s coming out of the swamps and moving to a neighborhood near you. Who? Clyde Butcher, one of the world’s foremost black and white large format photographers. Clyde is leaving his long time home in Big Cypress and moving to Venice where he already has a studio and gallery. Thankfully, his fabulous Big Cypress Gallery in Ochopee, on the Tamiami Trail, will remain open to the public.
How much time he will get to spend in his Venice digs is speculative. Clyde is in constant demand for personal appearances by museums and organizations throughout the country. The Sierra Club presented Clyde Butcher with the prestigious Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography. Lawton Chiles, Florida’s late governor, personally presented Clyde with Florida’s Artist Hall of Fame Award, the highest award the State of Florida can bestow on a private citizen.
Clyde Butcher’s work is in museums and private collections throughout the world. When his exhibit, “Visions for the Next MillenniuM” opened in the National Gallery of Art in Prague, Czech Republic, it was the largest ever for this venerable institution.
Most of us spend our working hours indoors. For more than 40 years, Clyde’s business days have been spent outdoors, wading through swamps and trudging through woods while photographing the ever shrinking world of Florida’s native habitats. He has since expanded his horizons, traveling to unique places from coast-to-coast.
After more than 40 years of capturing the world of nature on film, you would think he might become bored with this subject matter. But for Clyde Butcher, with his keen eye and unbridled enthusiasm for nature’s unspoiled beauty, this world has taken on a deep spiritual meaning.
He travels with one or more of his “old timey” large-format bellows cameras like the one Civil War photographer Mathew Brady used for his historic pictures. In this digital age, Clyde’s images are captured on a glass plate giving him the chance for only one exposure. Butcher’s artistry in developing and enlarging his pictures takes place in his unique Venice darkroom. There photos are printed in sizes ranging from prints of 6”x8” to special framed editions of 5’x9’ that’s right…feet.
Butcher’s award winning black and white photographs explore his personal relationship with the environment. Clyde’s love of the outdoors and his magical eye for details not seen by most of us, is evident in his images.
Standing in front of his large photographs, the viewer is drawn into the subject whether a forest, river, or swamp. The detail in each of his images is overpowering. Standing up close to these large format photographs, the eye can see only a piece of the picture at a time. The brain has to put it back together. And that is Butcher’s aim. He wants the viewer to experience the moment.
“You have to scan the photo. It gives you a feeling of actually being there,” Butcher says.
The stunning large scale black and white photographs of environmentally endangered and increasingly rare natural areas are impressive. He hopes his photographs “will help viewers see the sublime order of the natural world. The only hope for the future is educating our children to the importance of preserving ecosystems and therefore the environment” he said.
You will have a better opportunity to meet Clyde at his Venice gallery then was possible at Big Cypress. But his Big Cypress Gallery is definitely worth a visit just to see and experience hundreds of his photographs in a unique setting. There is no charge.
With a straight face, he will tell you that the Big Cypress Gallery is located in suburban Ochopee on Highway 41 (Tamiami Trail) about halfway between Miami and Naples. The joke is that downtown Ochopee’s distinguishing landmark is its post office, a much photographed former tool shed. It is officially classified as being the smallest post office in the United States.
The Venice Gallery is located at 237 Warfield Ave., 941-486-0811. You might want to start there and eventually work your way down to the Big Cypress. Pull up his fabulous web page to see the extent of his work. Just type in ClydeButcher.com.
Clyde is a big man with a long white bushy beard and questions have been raised by many about his relationship to the fabled Swamp Ape in Big Cypress. It is a situation similar to the relationship between Clark Kent and Superman. You’ve never see them both in the same room at the same time. People want to know if sightings of the legendary Swamp Ape will stop once he moves to Venice.