Dubbed the Ansel Adams of the Everglades, legendary Landscape Photographer Clyde Butcher has every right to have a big ego; but he doesn’t. Far from it. In fact, he’s quite humble.
Prior to receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the South Florida National Parks Trust on Wednesday, February 26 at the Naples Botanical Gardens, Butcher was characteristically modest about his talents and accomplishments.
“It’s really nice to be thought of that way,” Butcher said about receiving the lifetime achievement award. “Hopefully… I don’t think I have a big ego. I put my pants on one leg at a time like everybody else. I try to treat everybody the same. I had a really good day with President Carter in the swamp. And I have really good days with dishwashers in the swamp. It doesn’t matter to me. If a person is interested in the beauty of nature, I mean, and wants to respect it, I’m all for ‘em.
“I just do what I think needs to be done. We just love Big Cypress. We just love the Everglades. Actually, we just like Florida. Florida is very unique in the country. People don’t realize how unique Big Cypress is. The water is crystal clear. In the summertime, when it’s really raining good, it’s so clean we drink out of it,” Butcher said with a smile. “I mean, it’s just an amazing place. Our gallery is 50 miles from Naples and 50 miles from Miami. Exactly in the middle of the Everglades. Our parking lot is really pretty.”
The evening, including proceeds from a silent auction, benefits the South Florida National Parks Trust (SFNPT). In addition to honoring Butcher, the event was also a celebration of 20 years of the Big Cypress National Preserve environmental education program, named Swamp Water and Me Program (SWAMP). It’s a program Butcher is intimately involved with.
“The swamp education program,” began Jessica Pierce, Development Director for the SFNPT, “is a program that Big Cypress runs for sixth–grade students in Collier County to come out into the park for the day on a field trip. Clyde’s been involved with this since the beginning. Just the timing of these two special events really makes for a great evening.”
Butcher is considered the foremost Landscape Photographer in America today. He is known for his dramatic, mural-sized black and white landscape prints captured with large-format cameras. His photographs sell for thousands of dollars. Besides being talented, Butcher is also prolific. He has recently added a collection of heirloom-quality works.
“We’re doing platinum-palladium prints,” Butcher said. “There’s only three metals that don’t tarnish: gold, platinum and palladium. We’re using a combination of platinum-palladium. The technique was developed in the 1880s. Basically, it’s the best, most archival way you can make a picture. If the world lasts as long as the prints, we’ll be in good shape.”
As Americana Musician Amber Crowley entertained the gathering crowd with Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” Butcher spoke about his latest projects.
“We’re just finishing a big book on the Everglades. It’s going to press next week. It’s being printed in Italy. The people we’re using have been printing black and white books since 1900. They’re one of the few people in the world who know how to print black and white.It’s a lost art. The Italians do all the black and white books for New York. They’re good. I’ve tried doing it here; they just can’t quite get it figured out.”
Butcher will return to the Botanical Gardens this summer, this time he’ll be bringing his camera.
“I’m going to come back this summer and do some work here,” he said. “I’m sure it’ll bekinda fun. You’ve gotta do it the summer. You can’t do it in the winter, everything’s dead.Everything is fresh and perky here in the summertime. And there’s also less people. That’s a big plus!”
Butcher’s next big project is to finish a book on Florida.
“One of the areas I’m working on is the St. Johns area. Jacksonville, the Panhandle, the springs. I’m trying to bring that information from North Florida down to South Florida.Because they’re having problems up there just like we’re having problems. When you vote for somebody, it’s the whole state. So everybody’s gotta try to be connected. That’s a tough job connecting. Because people up there have a whole different attitude than people down here. That’s our next challenge, bringing Florida together.”
Butcher thinks we’re making progress.
“Well, I just finished talking to Pedro (Ramos), he’s the superintendent of all the parks:Everglades, Big Cypress, Tortugas. All the federal parks. He feels they’re making real progress. Because he’s more in the political part of it. It’s exciting. He’s in the front of the battle. He says that he’s getting more and more cooperation. He even seems to be getting cooperation from Trump. Maybe it’s because Trump wants to become a Floridian,” Butcher said with a laugh.