Clyde Butcher has watched the Florida landscape for decades- as it transitioned from cow fields to orange groves to housing complexes - all the while documenting the urban growth replace the lush nature that was native to the state. For over 50 years, Butcher has been honing into his “oneness with nature” and sharing that with the public through his photographs, some in color but most in black and white.
When he first traveled down to the Everglades to take photos, most people didn’t associate the swamp with any kind of beauty, just birds and gators, he said. Now, with the advent of increased environmental awareness, people are beginning to take notice and finally acknowledge the wonderful biodiversity that the Everglades and other areas in the state are overflowing with.
“Some people just think of Florida as beaches,” Butcher said. “My photographs show the diversity of Florida. It is one of the most interesting states I’ve ever been in.”
Butcher made his home in Big Cypress for 16 years, and has been photographing the swamp since 1984. “Since that time, I’ve never met another person out there [while taking photos]... it’s that large,” he said. “There are no paths. You just go. You just explore and you find new things.” He currently lives in Venice, Fla.
Growing up in small towns in the “back country,” Butcher developed a keen interest in nature. “Ever since I was a small kid I was in the woods, making forts, exploring, chasing rabbits or deer,” Butcher said.
Butcher’s first photography expedition was with his parents when he was eight or nine. After leaving his job as an architect in 1969, Butcher fully dedicated himself to photography, and “went into landscape.”
Since that time, Butcher has honored the serenity of the environment, making sure to fully integrate himself in his surroundings to achieve the most natural shot. One shot was a “two-hour swamp walk- [I walked it every day for nine years to get the shot].”
In his black-and-white photos, Butcher is showing people “what Florida is all about,” showing them the beauty of the state through his eyes.
After working with both color and black-and-white, he eventually stuck with the latter. “Color is a duplication, but black-and-white is an interpretation,” he said.
Through his photographs, Butcher is sharing the crystalline waters, the stormy skies, the lush greenery that is the quintessential Florida landscape, that may disappear if society doesn’t take better care of the earth.
“[We are] probably beyond the point of no return unless we get politicians with open minds,” he said. He compared the cattle industry in Florida that has no interest in maintaining the state’s landscape to something reminiscent of the meat industry in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.
Among the reactions to his photographs is a better grasp on the importance of honoring the Florida landscape and not destroying it for monetary gains. “Hopefully I’m making a difference in people’s thought patterns around the world,” he said.
Being kind to the environment goes beyond liking a post on social media or throwing a can in the recycling bin. For him and his wife, he has solar panels installed on his roof, to keep his carbon footprint as small as possible. You have to “practice what you preach, you can’t [say global warming is a problem] and not do it,” he said.
Clyde Butcher currently has a limited showing of the pieces above at the Adam R. Rose and Peter R. McQuillan Arts Center from Saturday, February 13 to Saturday, April 30, 2016. Find out more: http://www.fairchildgarden.org/clyde-butcher