Acclaimed photographer Clyde Butcher, who is widely known for his black and white prints of Florida's vast landscape, spent a week at the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation's Wilmeth Cottage for Visiting Scientists and Scholars, with his wife Niki, taking photos and scouting out new locations for when he returns again to Sanibel in the fall.
In December, Butcher was crowned the 2017 prize recipient of the SCCF J.N. "Ding" Darling's Brush of Excellence Award.
He also donated a signed and framed print valued at $1,500 to SCCF to be raffled off on April 20.
Photographer Clyde Butcher at SCCF.
During his week on Sanibel, Butcher captured photographs around the island on his Sony A7R2 and Canon 17 mm tilt-shift.
Over the last 20 years, Butcher has received countless awards for his photography and his strides in protecting the environment. Some of those honors include the Sierra Club Ansel Adams Conservation Award, the Everglades Coalition Award, the Marjory Stoneman-Douglas 101 Year Birthday Award, the Distinguished Artist Award from the Florida House Embassy, the North American Nature Photography Association Lifetime Achievement Award in Nature Photography and most notably, he has been inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. This award is the most prestigious in Florida.
Butcher's work has transformed quite a bit over the years. Although he still uses his large format camera, he made the switch to digital about two-and-half years ago after finding that he could no longer carry around 60 pounds .. of equipment like he used to. Butcher said that most people wouldn't really be able to tell the difference between his digital shots and film.
"I have gone through many stages. The first was black and white where I photographed objects - a tree, a sand dune, a cliff etcetera. I was using a 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 press camera. Then I began photographing color for the pure reason that it matched people's decor so it sold better. Because, back then, color film wasn't as good as black and white, I needed a larger negative to get a good print so, I purchased a 5x7 view camera. Next, I returned to black and white and began looking for compositions in photographing the biological chaos that is the nature of Florida. I also began using an 8x10 view camera so I could print 5x7 images that had the clarity of actually being in nature," Clyde said.
The photographer turned to black and white the second time after his 17-year-old son, Ted, was hit and killed by a drunk driver in 1986. Butcher threw out $400,000 worth of color photos and started over. Shortly after, he ventured out to Big Cypress National Preserve with his large format camera to begin his healing process.
"Clyde said, "I don't care if it sells, I'm going to photograph what it is," But by golly, it sold anyways. I was very surprised. We had friends who were black and white photographers, and they were doing art festivals at the time and they would win award after award and that would be the only money they got, maybe they'd sell a couple hundred dollars worth but that was it. So when Clyde said he was going to do black and white I just thought he was grieving and it would pass. So the first art show that he does, not only does he equal what he sold in color, but he wins ribbons on top of it," Niki said.
As a conservationist and solar activist, Butcher, who lives in a modular home in Venice, Florida, activated a solar panel on his roof with 4,300 watts in 2010. Last year, he and Niki made the decision to run their house and car entirely on solar energy.
"In 2016, we put another 7,000 watts on the roof plus a battery back up. Now, we can run our house and charge our Volt without paying FPL anything and without having to buy gasoline for our car," Clyde said.
The cost to completely switch to solar was $36,000. Butcher noted that his Chevy Volt gets an impressive 400 mpg.
When it comes to his favorite spots to photograph, Butcher said he loves Yosemite and Big Cypress. Recently, he's been photographing the springs.
Next month, Clyde and Niki will be off to Spain for his first commissioned project in over 50 years. The Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg has asked him to photograph Dali's hometown and the surrounding area. There will be an exhibit of Butcher's work in the museum following the trip.
"It's scary for me though. I've never done an assignment. Hopefully I'll make them happy," Clyde said.