Environment

Photographer Clyde Butcher is recovering from a stroke, and is eager to return to the Everglades

Clyde Butcher standing in the Florida Everglades with his large-format camera by his side.
Clyde Butcher standing in the Florida Everglades with his large-format camera by his side. Courtesy of Clyde Butcher

Everglades photographer Clyde Butcher suffered a stroke that has impaired the right side of his body, including his shutter-button finger, but he intends to be out of the wheelchair and hiking through the swamps again if his recovery goes smoothly.

Butcher, 75, renowned for his large format, black-and-white photographs that capture the magic and mystery of the Everglades, is in a Sarasota rehabilitation facility not far from his Venice gallery.

“His brain is fine and it looks like he will regain function on his right side, but it will be a while before he’s walking on his own,” Butcher’s daughter Jackie Butcher Obendorf said Friday after visiting her father, who was using a walker for the first time since he had the stroke two weeks ago.

“I don’t know if it’s all the prayers and positive thoughts, but he’s made amazing progress in just 24 hours since we posted the news on Facebook. He’s so into people and the love from people.”

Butcher probably had the stroke when he was working in his darkroom and started “stumbling around,” she said. The next morning he couldn’t get out of bed and his wife, Niki, took him to the hospital.

“The stroke has not affected his brain and for that we all feel very fortunate,” his wife said in a Facebook post that included pictures of Butcher smiling from a wheelchair and practicing his signature so he can autograph his 2018 calendars featuring Florida’s state parks. “Trust me he is still fighting for our environment!! He’s working hard to regain the strength in his fingers to be able to sign his name for those of you who ordered the first 500 calendars.”

Two years ago the big, bearded, behatted Butcher changed his diet, lost 50 pounds and switched to digital cameras to lighten the 60-pound load of the classic gear he hauled deep into the wilderness of the Everglades, a primeval, solitary place of dynamic light where he found solace and inspiration after his son was killed by a drunk driver 31 years ago.

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Big Cypress National Preserve in the Florida Everglades. The photo is one of the first black-and-white photos that Clyde Butcher took after a drunk driver killed his son in 1986. He took it while standing on the side of the road. Clyde Butcher

“But he was really missing the film so he bought a new 5-by-7’’ view camera, and three days before the stroke he was like a little kid opening the box because he was so excited to use that camera,” his daughter said.

Butcher, whose detailed, mural-sized pictures of mangroves, birds and ghost orchids hang in his gallery on Tamiami Trail near his beloved Big Cypress National Preserve, had recently been shooting in North Florida’s springs and posted a new photo called “Blowing Rocks 16” from Blowing Rocks Preserve in Jupiter. His exhibit “Cuba: The Natural Beauty” is on display at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West.

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Clyde Butcher's “Little Butternut” Clyde Butcher Courtesy of Clyde Butcher

“He’s been slowing down with age but this summer his plan was to shoot in the Everglades and the Keys,” his daughter said.

Butcher may have to downsize those plans.

“I anxiously await the summer season, it’s personally my favorite time to photograph in Florida; the clouds are so powerful!” he wrote recently.

But his current rate of progress is promising, Obendorf said.

“He’ll be in better shape when he gets home than when he left,” she said. “His spirit is great.”

Send a get-well card to Butcher at his gallery: 237 Warfield Ave., Venice, Fla., 34285.

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