May 8, 2021

Florida Icon

Icon: Clyde Butcher

Environmental Photographer, 63

Cynthia Barnett | 3/1/2006
In the 20 years I've been walking around Big Cypress, I've never met another person. We go places where most men don't tread. There's no path.

The only thing you get in your pants is a little muck. When the water's high, there's hardly any mosquitoes. I've had to knock a couple gators in the nose, but that was because I was in their way. Water moccasins just swim by you. They're not interested. It's really one of the safest places I could be.

Clyde Butcher? [Photo: Burk Uzzle]

When I first started showing my Everglades work, people would ask me, "Is this Africa?" "Is this the Amazon?" And I'd say, "No, it's just out in the Everglades." People had never seen pictures that allowed them to feel the Everglades.

Before the death of our son, the images were products. After Ted's death, they became art that could educate people about the loss of the world around them. When something like that happens, you can either become positive or negative. If you become negative, you've wasted a soul.

I do pictures large so you can't see them. Your angle of view is five to six degrees. So if I make a picture big, you have to scan it. You have to experience it. That's why my books aren't as good as my exhibits. I want you to experience my pictures like when you're in nature.

One question people ask me is why do I not want to go to the Amazon or all these other places. My answer is that we have so many problems here. If we can't solve our problems with all the money we have, what's the point of going to all those other countries? Because it's fun? Or is there a purpose?

I'm doing "America the Beautiful" for a purpose. I probably should stay here in Florida because my daughter, Jackie, keeps telling me I need to finish my book on the Everglades. But William & Mary College is giving me an opportunity to shoot parts of the country I've been wanting to shoot again. It's an opportunity to expose maybe a million people to the beauty of this nation.

The problem is that most of these politicians have a pretty rotten peer group. We need to get into their peer group somehow and expand it so they can understand what's happening to the Earth.

Some of the highest people in Florida government, I've asked them what sustainability means, and truthfully they answer that they have no idea.

We're so intelligent and so stupid. We know exactly what's wrong. We know exactly how to solve it. But we prefer not to. I know how to eat better too. We know we should not be driving SUVs. We know we shouldn't have 10,000-sq.-ft. houses. But we want them. And we can afford them, so we have them. People think, if I can afford it, I should be allowed to do it. I should have the right. Unfortunately, there's nobody teaching people what happens when they do these things -- that they can't really afford it.

Tags: Florida Icon, Around Florida, Environment

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