Sunday, September 27, 2020

True essence of the wilderness

Clyde spoke to a huge standing-room only crowd. Submitted

Clyde spoke to a huge standing-room only crowd. Submitted

Clyde Butcher was in town during “Arts Afire” week and made an appearance at the Marco Island Historical Museum.  It was amazing to be in the presence of this world famous photographer known as the “Ansel Adams of the Everglades.” He is a man who is passionately in love with the Everglades and finds beauty and serenity deep in the swamps of Florida.

Clyde didn’t start off as a photographer, he was a graduate of California Polytechnic with a degree in architecture. The problem is “I couldn’t draw, so I used to build models of the building I was asked to design and took pictures of them.”  Clyde took many trips out to Yosemite with his wife. He married Nikki his senior year in college.  The trips to the great outdoors started with Nikki sleeping in a tent that she shared with her parents and him sleeping outside. Married life allowed Nikki to finally share his sleeping bag on the outside.

Clyde had the audience in laughter as he told the story of a bear that came into camp and walked right over him and his wife nesting in their sleeping bag. “Can’t get any closer to wildlife than in that moment.”

Prior to moving to Florida he had a very successful business in commercial photography printing business. It was after another business venture went bankrupt that led him to move his family and two children to Florida.

He was introduced to the vast Everglades by a fifth generation Floridian or as History Channel dubbed, the “Swamp People,” Oscar Thompson. Oscar could navigate through the Everglades like a panther in the dark of night and helped Clyde understand the Everglades. In this world, Clyde found  an environment “purified of human contact.” Clyde explains, “In Florida everything changes overnight. The clouds, the sky, the light. That’s what excites me, you don’t find something like this anywhere else in the world.”

After a decade of photographing the Everglades, Clyde wanted to express what he saw through his lens. He decided to take on “projects” and that is to educate and inspire, to let people know that our undisturbed natural land is a special place and to reinforce the message that the way we take care of things now will determine the future of our quality of life.

Clyde went on to tell whimsical stories from his many “swamp walks” at his home and gallery off  “Alligator Alley” in the Everglades. One of his most memorable occurred when former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, decided to ditch the Secret Service agents and take a quick detour of the small trek prepared the day before by the agents. What was to be a ten minute quick hike went well over an hour deep into the glades. He laughed as he said “he terrified the agents with the ever apparent sighting of a gator, but that Rosalynn, she just loved it trekking through knee deep swamp water”!

When asked about his many encounters with gators, he had a huge grin on his face as he explained, “Gators are wimps, they are just like poodles. They are fish and frog eaters, not people eaters.”

The crowd was with Clyde Butcher throughout his presentation. Patty Page from Marco Island commented, “We enjoyed his presentation very, very much. We have been to the gallery many times, but this was the first time I heard him speak. Fantastic”!

David Rupp, also from Marco Island agreed, “I thought it was terrific, I love the history, very informative.”

Greg Glover, one of the Co-Chairs of the “Arts Afire”. “I couldn’t have been happier. It was not easy to get Clyde Butcher to do a talk. I started making contact with him way back in November. He wasn’t lying when he mentioned he doesn’t return phone calls. It was his daughter Janice that called me back in January and booked him for this appearance. I just want to thank everyone who volunteered to help make this event happen. A big, big thank you”!

The evening ended with a long line of admirers waiting for the opportunity to have their books and photos signed or just take a picture with the master. Although Clyde touched on the topic slightly, it was the tragic death of his son Ted Butcher on Father’s Day back in 1986 that changed his life forever. Ted was killed instantly when a speeding car ran a light and crashed into his car. To deal with the loss, Clyde would often wake before dawn, pack his camera and escape to the Everglades. After 4 months of daily forays into the swamps,  the artist Clyde Butcher emerged. His tragic loss has been our gain as well as the Everglades finding a friend forever.

 

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