Anyone who has seen the artists’ exhibits at the Venice Art Center, or explored the galleries throughout Venice, knows how many talented artists reside or work in the area. We were fortunate to talk with two of our artists about the passions behind their very different styles of art.
To describe Clyde Butcher as a landscape photographer who works in black and white would be accurate, but only part of the portrait of this artist. Butcher uses large-format cameras and specially designed enlargers to print photographs that are poster-sized or even mural-sized, as large as five feet by nine feet.
“In trying to convey what the landscape looks like, I want people to experience it as if they were there,” Butcher explained. “When you are in nature, you don’t just see it in front of you; you scan it and see all around you.”
His work has been compared to that of Ansel Adams, not only because Butcher also produces large black and white photographs, but because of the details their work unveils and the emotion they evoke in the viewer.
As Adams is known for his photographs of Yosemite and other landscapes in the western United States, Butcher is known for his photographs of Florida, especially the Everglades. His intent is not to photograph the wildlife so often associated with Florida, though you will see the occasional alligator or heron.
It’s the beauty and detail of the landscape that is unique to Florida—the islands, the mangroves, the rivers and creeks, the sands and the swamps—which he wants people to really see and experience. In fact, on certain weekends, the public is invited to take guided “swamp walks” of the swamps behind his house and Big Cypress Gallery in Ochopee, Florida, in the Big Cypress National Preserve.
He has traveled the world as well photographing nature’s marvels, from the falls, forests and mountains of California to the Badlands of South Dakota; the Great Smoky Mountains to the beaches of Maine and Hawaii. He completed six Public Broadcasting documentaries, and was asked by the United Nations to photograph Cuba, including many unspoiled areas that had rarely been seen before.
Butcher wasn’t always a black and white landscape photographer. He started his professional life as an architect but then became interested in photography. Though intrigued by black and white, he concentrated on color photographs because they were more marketable. He moved his family from California to Florida in 1981. When his son was killed by a drunk driver in 1986, Butcher retreated to the wilderness he loved for solace. There, he asked himself what was important in life.
He threw away his color prints and equipment and went back to the black and white medium.
“Color is too distracting; it highlights and makes some elements stand out. Black and white is an equalizer, and everything in nature is equal. With black and white you see all the details,” Butcher explained.
Conservation has become a passion for Butcher. Through his photographs, books, talks and swamp walks, he hopes to engage people enough in the nature that surrounds us that they will want to take steps to care for it and preserve it.
At Butcher’s Venice Gallery and Studio on Warfield Avenue, you can meander through the gallery to see his large, framed prints, as well as his books that showcase his various collections. Smaller prints are also available for sale.
In his expansive working area are his numerous cameras and eight enlargers of various sizes and ages, one dating back to 1910. All have been updated with the latest technology and serve different purposes.
“People don’t realize how difficult it is to make a large print,” said Butcher. To facilitate the process, he designed a large tray system in his darkroom. That solves the problem of accommodating the unwieldy prints, but turning them into art is the key.
“It can take a week to get it just right. Even though it may look good when it’s wet, you can’t really tell until it dries,” said Butcher.
Venice Gallery and Studio, at 237 Warfield Avenue, is open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information call 941.486.0811 or visit clydebutcher.com.