Renowned nature photographer Clyde Butcher visits Clearwater Wednesday to speak about his iconic large format black-and-white photography of the Everglades currently on display in an exhibit at the Clearwater Main Library downtown.
The free Wednesday event (March 30, 2022), which will include staff of the Clyde Butcher Gallery leading tours of the exhibit before moving to the Nancy and David Bilheimer Capitol Theatre for a meet and greet and Butcher’s lecture, has reached a full capacity of 700.
Butcher’s America’s Everglades exhibit remains on display in renovated and expanded gallery space in the atrium of the library through May 31st. Next, there will be an exhibit of the hand-painted black-and-white photography of Clyde’s wife, artist Niki Butcher. Also, in mid-May, The World Within, a related immersive sound installation by artist Todd MacIntire will feature outdoor speakers along Cleveland Street playing audio recorded in the heart of the Everglades during a 13.5-hour period from before sunrise to after sunset.
In a phone interview, Butcher recalled what first drew him to the primordial wild of the river of grass.
“I’m from California and when I came here to live in Florida I didn’t see anything to photograph,” Butcher says. “I was driving through Florida, and looking at everything from the car, and there were no mountains. Then one day, I was driving up (U.S.) 27 and there was this little roadside shop we stopped at. The man who owned the shop had been living in the swamp since 1936. He saw I was getting a little bored and told me there was a boardwalk out in back. When I went out on the boardwalk and walked into the swamp, it was this whole different world that you can’t see from the road. It reminded me of the Redwoods of California. Then the next week, I met a fifth-generation Floridian in his camera shop. He was looking at slides from Big Cypress and I said, ‘That is interesting. Would you take me down there someday?’ He told his wife to watch the store, put me in his four-wheel drive, and took me down to Big Cypress. In those two episodes, I discovered what Florida was really about and that everybody was photographing birds and gators instead of the environment. I wanted to show people how beautiful it was.”
To capture his images, Butcher ventures deep into the Everglades, often standing for hours in waist-deep water filled with snakes and gators. He uses black and white film because it shows the “true” Florida and the detail and unity of the landscape without the intrusion and distraction of color. In his lecture, Butcher will talk about his background and then focus on the beauty of the Everglades and the importance of protecting and preserving it.
The Clearwater Community Redevelopment Agency has a three-year agreement in place to exhibit Butcher’s work in the downtown library and organized Wednesday’s special event. It is part of a CRA initiative to bring more art exhibits downtown that started in 2019 with the popular “Dreams of Dali” virtual reality exhibit at the Second Century Studios space that the CRA used to operate out of a downtown storefront.
CRA Director Amanda Thompson says the exhibits help draw people to the downtown, where they might have a meal in a restaurant or go into a local shop. With the Butcher exhibit, the city did not want to lease space and instead renovated existing gallery space in the library and expanded the gallery into the atrium.
She says Butcher’s Everglades photography has some parallels with the Imagine Clearwater redevelopment of Coachman Park now underway along the waterfront adjacent to the library. In both cases, the purpose is to connect people with the natural beauty of the water, she says.
Thompson says Butcher’s photography is striking because he travels deep into areas of the Everglades we would never see to capture the natural beauty of Florida.
“You feel like you are immersed and it is something you would never see from the road in your life,” she says. “But this is Florida. This is our state. It is so beautiful and so natural.”
The America’s Everglades exhibit has been a popular draw, with 2,100 people visiting it from Feb. 1-March 18.
For more information on the exhibit follow this link: America's Everglades Through the Lens of Clyde Butcher.
To learn more, visit Clyde Butcher Galleries online.