It was happenstance that initially inspired Butcher’s affinity for the Glades 30 years ago. In 1986, his 17-year-old son, Ted, was killed by a drunk driver, and Butcher’s quest for solace led him to the Big Cypress Natural Preserve. It was there that he began to preserve its inherent beauty in black-and-white film, a passion that led him to produce some of the most indelible images of the Everglades ever produced.
“Which would you rather have, air or water?” Butcher replies when asked why he opted to shoot those environs in black and white exclusively. “Of course you need both. Black and white gives all the objects in the photo equal standing, whereas color tends to emphasize one element over the other.”
Butcher’s also known for “swamp walks,” which he leads to allow visitors and nature enthusiasts to experience the Everglades firsthand. Likewise, his various tabletop books and series of PBS documentaries have also earned him acclaim.
“If I get excited about something, I photograph it,” Butcher explains. “I do what I call ‘feelie’ shots… my feel-good shots. My work isn’t limited to the Everglades; I have a book coming out that collects the work I’ve done in 34 national parks around the country. But I have an affinity for the Everglades. I love that environment. I love the biological atmosphere of it. I love the clouds, the swamps… I love what’s there. Mountains are beautiful, but you can go anywhere in the world to see mountains. Switzerland, Mexico, Russia… but the Everglades is truly one of the most unique places on Earth, and you won’t find anything like it anywhere else in the world.”
Butcher has earned numerous accolades for his efforts to preserve and protect this great national treasure. His photography has been displayed at galleries throughout the United States and at the National Gallery of Art in Prague, not to mention Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports. In addition, the United Nations commissioned him to photograph the higher elevations of Cuba as part of its Year of the Mountains initiative.
It’s little surprise, then, that the State of Florida bestowed upon him its highest honor, the Artist Hall of Fame Award. And as if that weren’t impressive enough, he has also garnered the Lifetime Achievement Award from the North American Nature Photography Association, the 2011 Distinguished Artist Award from the Florida House of Representatives, and the Ansel Adams Conservation Award from the Sierra Club.
Given those accomplishments, Butcher’s upcoming exhibit at Fort Lauderdale’s Museum of Discovery and Science Fort Lauderdale ought to be an eye-opening experience for both photography buffs and those whose love of the great outdoors is in need of being satiated to the fullest. Appropriately too, on opening day, the photographer himself will be on hand to introduce a film, National Parks Adventure 3D, a film narrated by Robert Redford that commemorates the Park Service’s 100-year anniversary and that will be shown at the museum for the next several months.
“I’m thankful that Jim Dobson donated a portion of his collection of my work to the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science,” Butcher says, referring to one of the exhibit’s major benefactors. “It is a wonderful gift to the museum and the people of Fort Lauderdale.”
Still, it’s Butcher’s own efforts that find him acknowledging his role as one of the world’s foremost ambassadors for the Everglades. “It is a responsibility,” he allows. “My job is to bring the outdoors indoors for everyone to appreciate.”
A permanent exhibitions of Clyde Butcher’s Everglades photography opens Saturday, February 13 at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science, 401 S.W. Second Street. Special showings of the film “National Parks Adventure 3D” will take place on opening day, along with a special presentation by Butcher himself at 12:10pm and 1:45pm. Museum hours are 10am – 5pm Monday through Saturday and noon to 6pm on Sunday. Admission prices to view all the museum exhibits are $15 for adults, $14 for seniors and $13 ages 2 – 12 and for military personnel. Cost for exhibits and to view the film are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and $16 for ages 2 – 12 and for military personnel. Phone 954-467-6637 for further information.