FLORIDA PANTHER | Niki ButcherFort Myers, FL © 1990
Photographic Story The photo was taken in the 1990s when The Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary in North Ft. Myers had an event on their property to earn money to help injured animals. They had several panthers that had been injured and could no longer move well enough to survive in the wild. One of them had babies. Sometimes photographs don’t turn out the way you expect they will. What you experience at the time isn’t always what you capture with your camera. This image provided a challenge for me. I liked the subject in the photograph, but the background had so many distractions. Things like bleachers, food stands, and hordes of people caused distraction from what I was trying to capture. I wasn’t sure if I would have an opportunity to photograph anything like this again, so I wanted to find a way to use the photo I had taken. I found a fun technique that I thought might help eliminate all the background noise in my picture. It took several attempts, but I finally processed an image I loved. After I exposed the print in the darkroom, I attached it in an upright position on a piece of foam core. Then I took it into the processing room and used a sponge to put the developer onto the print, letting it run down. While I did that, I exposed the photograph with a flashlight that “bronzed” the picture. I added stop-bath to areas I didn’t want to be streaked, like the Native American dancer and the panther, and then let the background run and streak. Once I achieved an image I liked, I photocopied the original, made another print, and hand-painted it, keeping the originals safe and tucked away. The Art of Hand Painting Black and White Photographs Niki prints her images on fiber-base black and white mat surface paper in the darkroom, then using Q-tips and cotton balls, she applies a thin coat of oil paint over the surface allowing the image to gently be seen through the oil paint. Archival Print Making Niki’s open edition gicleé artwork is printed on Sunset Bright Velvet Rag matte finish paper using eight archival inks. A state-of-the-art Epson Stylus Pro printer creates deep, rich dark values that hold subtle detail in the shadows as well as bright vivid colors that are truly tropical.