Meeting Clyde Butcher was something of a dream of mine. I’ve been a fan for a handful of years now, am on his email list and I follow him on Facebook. I knew he was hosting the Big Cypress Gallery Fun Swamp Event on October 31 and November 1, so I made plans to spend the weekend in Everglades City at River Wilderness Waterfront Villas so I could meet him in person. To me, Clyde is one of the most influential black and white photographers, or at least his work has influenced me in ways that have changed my life and the way I approach what I do as a photographer.
I decided to attend his Big Cypress Gallery opening extra early to keep from standing in what I thought was going to be a very long line to meet him. Upon arriving at the gallery, there were quite a few people outside speaking with the rangers and signing up for the swamp walk. That day, I was not interested in the swamp walk. I headed on into the gallery where I was greeted pleasantly by a lady at the reception area. She asked if I was there for the swamp walk. I told her no, whereafter she asked if I was there to meet Clyde. I said yes, and showed her the two books I had purchased from the gallery about two years prior, and how excited I was for Clyde to sign them. She said he would be in the gallery in a few minutes and showed me inside.
I browsed the gallery in complete awe, my usual state while viewing Clyde’s work. I was admiring images he had captured in Jupiter, Florida, and when I looked up, Clyde was entering the room with a cup of tea.
Clyde greeted me pleasantly. After introductions, we began a conversation about photography while he took me on a mini-tour of the gallery and his digitally captured images. In the midst of our conversation, as he was explaining to me about being out in the wild and why gators don’t bother him, he suddenly pointed to one of his images and stated emphatically: “I wanted to capture the whole situation that was going on.” The way he worded that phrase gave me pause. The whole situation. I had never thought of a landscape scene in quite that way before. It gave me a complete understanding of the way he thinks and feels about a scene, even before he sets up his camera. The word "situation" for me meant stillness, silence, and action, all coming together at the same decisive point of view.
That statement made such a profound impact on me. From now on, I will use that knowledge when photographing a landscape. I will ask myself “how do I convey not just what I feel about this scene, but how can I better convey what is before me.” In other words, I must first set up the shot in my consciousness, and then bring the image into the physical world with emotion, vision, and action.
I heard Clyde say something else that day that was equally as profound. He was speaking to another fan who had happened into the room we were in. He too was beaming to meet Clyde. He had a video camera in his hand and asked Clyde permission to shoot some video in the gallery. Clyde gave him the go-ahead, and the man, who spoke with a heavy English accent, asked Clyde “How do you use your camera to take such pictures?” to which Clyde answered by saying "My camera doesn't take the picture, I do. The camera is just an instrument I use to show the world my view." Now that might not be what he said verbatim, but again, I found myself plunged into another “ah ha!” moment, one that was even more profound because in this we share the exact same viewpoint.
These were just some of the things I have learned from Clyde Butcher. I was like a sponge, soaking up every bit of knowledge that he shared with me. What a great day. He signed my books, and I also purchased one of his prints called "Little Butternut Key 1" The image can be seen here, [Little Butternut Key 1]. He signed the back of the print as well, and I pre-ordered his new book, which will be mailed to me when it is available.
I love the Florida Everglades. It is about a two-hour drive from Pahokee, FL, The town I was born and raised. I find it so amazing that I was raised in this area and had never until fairly recently seen Clyde Butcher’s mesmerizing Everglades landscapes. I discovered Clyde's work about three years ago through a friend who had previously viewed his work and thought I should see it. We went to a showing at the Orlando Museum of Arts in Winter Park Florida, and I was instantly awestruck and amazingly uplifted as I entered the exhibit room. I felt like I was floating around the exhibit, buoyed by complete admiration, and blessed by the presence of each image.
I felt drawn into each print, captivated by each situation. I felt peaceful emotions move through me as I walked in the presence of alligators. Birds held their places on branches and beaches as I journeyed close by, as though my being was a naturally occurring thing. I was able to peer under and around cypress knees, and be dwarfed at the base of huge cypress trees. I moved over silky waters, with clouds that rolled across the sky just below heaven. I strolled through marshes and mangroves, over beaches with dunes on a landscape that went on into infinity. I was no longer in the museum but being pulled into the Dead Lakes, teeming with life, floating over wetlands as I became a part of the Fakahatchee Stand. I traveled Tupelo Creek, Three Sisters Springs, Fish-Eating Creek, and I rested below a memorial tree. And after this short but infinite journey, I floated back into the museum with the mantra playing over and over in my mind: I must meet him, I must meet Clyde Butcher, for I knew what I was seeing was beyond photography and into the mystic. Finally, on October 31, 2015, this dream was realized.
Thank you, Mr. Butcher, for your contribution. The gifts you have given to the world through your photography has inspired me, and no doubt millions of others. Your work whispers to us all not to just keep shooting, but to try and see and feel that invisible, ever-present, ever-peaceful creative energy. Your images so perfectly encapsulate the movements, the essence of that eternal energy. When I view your work, I think: there I am, that peace that exists in the midst of wildness, that which neither man nor animal can disturb.
Here is an image of Clydes new book it arrived on time for me to place in my blog, its more of a photography story book very different from the other books I have purchased of his.