Have You Got the Eye?

The James Museum is now accepting entries for The Natural World: A Landscape Photography Contest. Members of the public of all ages  can show their appreciation for nature by submitting up to three  black and white landscape photographs in digital format. All entries must be submitted by 5 p.m. on June 10, 2022.

 Framed copies of the top three winning entries will be displayed in the museum July 1-31, 2022. First place will receive an individual museum membership, a signed copy of a book by Clyde Butcher, a museum gift bag, and a framed copy of their winning photo. Second place will receive four general admission tickets to the museum, a museum gift bag, and a framed copy of their winning photo. Third place will receive two  general admission tickets to the museum, a museum gift bag, and a framed copy of their winning photo. 

To find submission information,  go to thejamesmuseum.org/contest/

Going Wild

Two of America's foremost landscape photographers meet in an inspiring side-by-side exhibit.

By Marcia Biggs

GRAND
Kitchen + Bath

Renovations + Designs + Installation

It was a quandary of immense proportions.

How to display in a single gallery the works of two iconic photographers. They shared similarities so extraordinary it seemed like an exhibit made in heaven:  Ansel Adams (1902-1984), a pioneering photographer and environmentalist best known for his iconic black and white images of the American West, and Clyde Butcher, a photographer and environmentalist often referred to as the “Ansel Adams of Florida” for his large format black and white photographs of the Everglades.

Emily Kapes, curator at the James Museum of Western Art and Wildlife, explained the months of planning: Dividing the 3,200-square-foot room and adjoining entryways  into two distinct spaces, creating miniature models so they could figure out the layouts. She selected a different wall color for each photographer, gave each exhibit its own title and entry wall.

Since opening in early April as a fitting tribute to Earth Month, the two exhibits are side-by-side in a reverent duet of nature.  “Both Ansel Adams and Clyde Butcher are from California,’ explains Kapes. “This is how Clyde became influenced by Ansel Adams’ work long ago.”

On the left side, Clyde Butcher: America the Beautiful is presented on soft blue-green walls, his powerful landscapes of mountains, waterfalls, swamps and deserts, all visions of  American wilderness rarely seen by most.  Images are large, crisp and dimensional, and at times the viewer feels as though he is looking through a picture window.

The light in the gallery is dim, but all the better to focus a spotlight on skies filled with voluminous clouds, or a canyon, or a desert riverbed, or a forest of mangroves so crisp you can see the outline of each leaf.

“Many people regard Clyde Butcher as the Ansel Adams of Florida,” said Emily Kapes.  “But this exhibition shows such a variety of his stunning landscapes from all over the country. His perspectives are just incredible.”

Butcher is known for his extreme patience, waiting hours, days, sometimes years, until the light, the clouds and the composition come together precisely the way he intends. Carrying large-format camera gear weighing up to 120 pounds, many of these images required trekking across difficult terrain, or standing in chest-deep water for hours.

For fans of Butcher, this exhibit is revealing as it goes far beyond his signature Florida/Everglades work: We see the Redwoods in northern California, Cascade Falls at Yosemite National Park, Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. “Wilderness to me, is a spiritual journey,” he writes in his Artist Statement. “My hope is to educate … to let people know our land is a special place, and to inspire others to work together to save nature’s places of spiritual sanctuary for future generations.”

On the right, Ansel Adams: The Masterworks includes 32 black and white gelatin silver prints spanning four decades by the legendary photographer who was most recognized for iconic images of National Parks and the Southwest. A number of his most well-known images are here: Moonrise, Hernandez New Mexico; Aspens, Northern New Mexico; and Winter Sunrise, The Sierra Nevada.

The background color here is a dark taupe and from afar the exhibit appears less visually exciting compared to Butcher’s work. The photographs are uniformly small  in comparison, despite the grandeur of the subjects.  It’s a limitation from the early days of photography (Adams held his first one-man exhibition in 1928). It’s important to get up close to these works,   whereas the Butcher side demands one stand back and take in the scene from a distance.

Lugging heavy equipment and large-format cameras, Adams captured approximately 2,500 negatives of breathtaking views of the West over his lifetime. His contributions to the medium of photography are extensive. He co-pioneered the Zone System technique in 1940, creating a standardized way to achieve ideal exposure and tonality in black and white photography

Over the course of his career, Adams brought wilderness to the American public and sought to elevate photography to fine art.

His technical mastery of the medium was matched only by his passion for the environment. As a member of both the Board of Directors of the Sierra Club and the governing council of the Wilderness Society, he tirelessly advocated for parks, wilderness spaces, and a variety of conservation issues.

The 32 prints on view belong to his granddaughter, Virginia Adams Mayhew. She loaned her collection to the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, GA,, who organized this exhibition. Clyde Butcher’s exhibition was created by Window of the Eye, Inc.

The exhibits run through July 31. For more information, go to thejamesmuseum.org.