Friday September 2, 2005

Be nice to Clyde Butcher!

Clyde Butcher is often dismissed by “serious” photographers. But while they may fail as serious contemporary art, his photos are technically astounding, laborious, and sublime, in a way that is equal parts awe-of-nature and chemical/optical magic.

Butcher’s formula is simple – he applies the Ansel Adams approach to Florida’s tropical landscapes. This means employing a huge camera which takes an 8×10 inch sheets of film for each photo. It means wading through waist-deep jungle with a hardwood tripod, said camera, and other ancillary equipment. It means setting up for a shot and waiting hours, sometimes days, for the right light to take the photo. And it means meticulously hand-printing giant photos, often with complex burning and dodging.

The end result are huge photographs (some 5×8 feet) with more detail per square inch then you’ll see anywhere else (that’s what the big negative is for). That their highly stylized black and white detachment does not evoke the vivid, hot, mosquito-bitten reality most of us associate with the everglades is, perhaps, what gives them their supernatural drive. But Butcher isn’t just taking what he needs from the land; he’s involved in conservation, and has lived on the Big Cypress National Preserve for over ten years.

Butcher is not quite a Florida treasure, but his work is difficult not to enjoy (although employees at the cultural centers where he often shows do their best to ruin his work with crappy presentation). His photographs are on view in Naples through the end of September, he’s doing his big open house swamp walk this weekend, and he’ll be on Ed Bell’s show today at 1pm.

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  1. Fauxtography    Fri Sep 2, 01:35 PM #  

    This “serious” photographer thinks that Clyde is doing what most stock and ad photographers do; that is, not make pictures, but make ideas of what most people think pictures should be. Saccharine nonsense.

    Also, I’ve seen these in person and they’re FAR FROM technically perfect. Generally contrasty and BAD dodging.

  2. Biscayne Bystander    Sat Sep 3, 12:19 PM #  

    It amazes me when someone is critical of art to the point where they pose as the governing authority on the matter. Art, like beauty and the frequency you masturbate, is subjective.

    If this guy wants to pawn his work for $3,500 a pop, what’s the problem? Congo, the abstract artist and CHIMPANZEE, recently had a painting sell for over $25,000.


  3. Needs Glasses    Tue Sep 6, 01:55 PM #  

    the frequency you masturbate?” Measured in what, herzogs? Decibels? Blisters? Damn! I shouldn’t have dropped out of school before taking physics.

  4. Tanya Hyde    Wed Sep 7, 12:21 PM #  

    I’ve always liked Clyde Butcher’s work. The stark black and white contrasts allow viewers to study the light; to see the landscape without the “distraction” of color. It’s another way to appreciate the incredible Florida sun.