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The world's largest film camera is ready to embark on a historic documentary journey. With your help we can hit the road.
Chad Tepley
Chicago, Illinois
United States
3 Team Members

"We are but a flash in time.  Our cultures were here long before us and they will remain here long after we are gone...if we keep the dream alive."  --Dennis Manarchy

Butterflies & Buffalo: Tales of American Culture is a national artistic documentary project led by photographer Dennis Manarchy to capture the history and enduring spirit of our nation's most extraordinary cultures through the largest film camera in the world on a nationwide expedition.

Thanks to a team of over 30 people offering their time, labor, materials, and unwavering support, we have just completed the construction of this incredible machine - a 35-foot film camera with the ability to capture portrait images on 6-foot film negatives with detail of over 1,000x greater than digital technology. It is the unmistakable centerpiece of the project and a tribute to nearly 200 years of photography...but the most critical part of the mission is yet to begin.  With your help, the camera and our team will begin a journey across America that will forever preserve the valuable history of our diverse cultural heritage.  Over 50 cultures...each telling their own story in their own words.

Check out the preview of our behind-the-scenes construction of this amazing camera:

The camera is on display now through October 31st in downtown Chicago at Two North Riverside Plaza.  Come visit us and check it out! 

About the artist...Dennis Manarchy

Inspired by the dramatic photo-realist paintings of Chuck Close and the unprecedented documentary journey of Edward Curtis, Dennis Manarchy's dream to capture the spirit of America began at an early age while studying at the RIT School of Photography. He apprenticed with legendary photographer, Irving Penn - a master of portraiture - and later served as Lieutenant in the Vietnam War.  Upon his return to civilian life, Dennis met a Lumbee Indian Chief who recognized he was a little "screwed up." The Chief invited Dennis to live and work with the Tribe to readjust.  It was the most pivotal experience of his life and it instilled a deeply rooted appreciation for our nation's rural cultures. Dennis' award-winning artistic and commercial career has spanned over 3 decades. For more of Dennis' work visit www.Manarchy.com.  

Why is this project so important? 

We've come to a tipping point.  A language is lost every 2 weeks across the globe.  Some cultures are evolving, others are being lost...but they each hold valuable history, traditions, and heritage that must be documented before they are gone forever.  The world is going digital, and film is nearly a thing of the past.  Today's "cultural programming" is reality TV which poorly represents the true magic of our diverse people. It's time to take a step back and capture the honest beauty and true history of our nation in a new and exciting way.  This is a tribute to film photography and a celebration of cultures.  The images below were test shots taken in the studio with the prototype 35-foot film camera that Dennis built by hand.  They represent the camera's incredible capabilities, but the new camera allows us to travel...and now we can finally visit these cultures in their own environments.

This journey will allow us to collect a vast amount of material - both film photography and video documentary footage - and we will share it with the world.  It will provide us with the opportunity to share our camera and technology with the people we visit, and in return we will gain a greater understanding of the history and customs across our nation.  Much of the historical significance of our cultures is widely unknown to the general public.  This project will bring awareness to the folklore, origins, and customs that these individuals proudly maintain.  Our collection of material will become the basis for future educational materials, documentaries, music...a collection that will represent who we truly are as a nation.

Where are we now?

Over the past 10 years the project has been grown by our shoe-strings: 

  • Dennis has built by hand 3 prototype film cameras...each better than the last... representing thousands of hours of testing, lighting, hundreds of lenses, and immeasurable experimentation in film development techniques for this ultra-large-format film.
  • Over 35 test photos have been taken on 6-foot film negatives with the prototype camera - Tuskegee Airmen, Gullah, Cajuns, Navajo, Ojibwa...all to research and refine the camera's capabilities, despite it being stuck in the studio.
  • A select number of documentary interviews have been conducted.
  • The itinerary has been outlined for over 35 locations across the United States (the map below outlines a partial list of the featured destinations...the list continues to grow).
  • People across the Midwest have joined together offering their expertise and time to see this project move to the next level.

Why Film? And why so big?

"There is a beauty and honesty to film that cannot be replicated.  It's the purest form of the art.  It's delicate, sensitive, raw...and the process requires absolute precision.   But once that image appears and you witness the results of all of the effort, it's then when you remember why you shoot with film."  --Dennis Manarchy

Never before has a camera had the ability to create images with this amount of visual detail, especially at such a large scale.  Every pore on the skin, every hair on the head, every blemish and every wrinkle.  This is who we are...it's simple, natural beauty.  The size of the final prints resulting from the camera's 6-foot film negatives can reach up to 30 feet in height.  

"This camera takes these people and gives them a certain level of dignity...and it puts it on an epic scale.  You look into their eyes and you can feel something." 

How will your contributions help?

The volunteered time and effort of countless individuals have allowed us to reach this critical point, but the next phase (the road trip) is costly and we can't do it without support. Your contributions will send the camera and our team on the road for the first segment of the national trip.  Not only will you help the mission to continue, you will share in the experience and learn a lot along the way. Through social media, blogging, and our website, we will share the video, imagery, and first-hand accounts of each individual, and you will experience these unfamiliar worlds through the eyes of those living there.  You will gain a deep appreciation for the history and origins of each culture, and you will be pleasantly surprised by the amazing heritage within our own borders. 

Above Photo: "American Buffalo"

What We Need & What You Get

Our funding goal will allow the first leg of the journey to be completed.  Transporting the largest film camera in the world is no small task, but with your help we can cover approximately 2,000 miles across the Midwestern United States with a documentary crew of 6 people.  The rewards offered allow supporters to become a part of this historic journey and share in the full experience.  The number of featured cultures will be confirmed based upon the level of successful funding, but we will begin in the Midwest and will include: HoChunk Tribe of Wisconsin, Chicago Blues Singers, Eelpout Fishermen/women of Northern Minnesota, Amish of Indiana, Holocaust Survivors...The more funding we receive, the more groups we can visit.  Dennis and our amazing production team have decades of experience in commercial productions, and Dennis has spent considerable time living with and studying many of these featured groups.  The pieces are in place.  Now it's time to hit the road.

So where does your $$ go?

The following chart shows how funds will be allocated to make this production possible. The total timeline including pre-production, the trip, and post-production for this first leg of the journey is approximately 6 months.   

What will happen to the material we collect?

The documentary footage will be collected and presented as a visual account of our national American heritage. The film photography will offer a stunning look at the physiognomy, regalia, and spirit of each featured individual.  When the full national trip is complete, we will have amassed an unprecedented amount of imagery, film documentary footage, and a written record of history/customs/origins/regalia/cuisine.  It will be an incredible representation of our nation.  Phase III will be the exhibitions & materials.  Though it is too early to outline the details (and well outside of this funding campaign), we have some very exciting things planned.  One thing is for certain...we will maintain the integrity of the mission and continue working hard to preserve and share the valuable cultural heritage of our nation.

Above Photo: "Autumn"

Other Ways You Can Help

We understand that not everyone can contribute financially...but there are many other ways to be involved and help us achieve our goal:

  • Visit our social media sites and help to share our story:  Facebook, Twitter
  • Help us to connect with museums, cultural institutions, foundations, and potential corporate sponsors who share our interest in preserving history in a big way
  • Help us to maximize the reach of our campaign through the magic of the Indiegogo share tools!
  • Send us your suggestions and contacts for photo subjects you think should be featured!

Want to get involved on a bigger scale?

The entire project scope reaches far beyond this campaign, and we are currently seeking partners and sponsors who share our passion for cultural heritage and want to join us in this exciting journey.  Please visit our website www.ButterfliesAndBuffalo.com and contact us...we look forward to sharing our plans!

For everyone helping to make this happen...

Our deepest gratitude goes out to our many supporters, our dedicated team, and the people who have offered their valuable time and resources to see this project continue.   

With much love and appreciation,

The Butterflies & Buffalo team

Find This Campaign On
raised in 2 months
1% funded
No time left
$235,000 USD goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on November 16, 2013
Select a Perk
  • $10USD
    Spare Change!

    A little goes a long way. Become a supporter and join our email list for project updates, images, interviews, and amazing facts/history on the featured cultures...and come along for the ride!

    0 claimed
    Estimated delivery: November 2013
  • $25USD
    1,000 Words

    You'll receive a digital collection of project photographs by Dennis Manarchy and a download of The Camera Build documentary story...a stunning collection of imagery from the project and an inside look at the work that has gone into this amazing machine. Your name will also be added to our website to show our sincere appreciation as a founding member of the project! Also includes perk 1 above.

    3 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $38USD
    B&B Rags

    Wear your support on your sleeve! Receive a Butterflies and Buffalo T-Shirt designed by project photographer/artist Dennis Manarchy. Also includes perks 1 and 2. Add $18 for shipping outside the U.S.

    2 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $75USD
    American Buffalo

    Receive an 11"x14" print of the "American Buffalo" photograph by Dennis Manarchy (shown below)...a symbol of our strong American spirit and one of our project mascots! Also includes perks 1 and 2 above. Add $15 to ship outside of US.

    6 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $125USD
    All of the above!

    Includes all of the perks above! Add $30 USD to ship outside of U.S.

    4 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $250USD
    Edition of Autumn

    Limited edition archival fine art print; 11"x11" edition of 100; the 35-foot prototype camera's first subject - "Autumn" (shown below). Add $15 USD to ship outside of US.

    1 out of 100 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $500USD
    Photo Seminar with Dennis

    Take your photography to a whole new level with an exciting 2-hour group photography seminar at the studio of project artist/photographer, Dennis Manarchy, along with a tour of the 35-foot project centerpiece camera and a truly one-of-a-kind experience. Each group will be limited to no more than 15 people. Also includes perks 1, 2, and 4 above. Add $18 for shipping outside the U.S.

    0 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $2,500USD
    Limited Edition Autumn

    Receive a limited edition, 20"x20" signed/dated original archival fine art print by Dennis Manarchy, Edition of 7, "Autumn" (photo shown below). Boost your art collection while helping us to get this giant camera on the road! Includes perks 1 and 2 above. Add $60 for shipping outside the U.S.

    0 out of 7 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $4,500USD
    Private Photography Session

    Do you like photography and cultures? You and a friend will join Dennis in his Chicago studio for an amazing session of discussion, demonstrations, and an all-around amazing time...get tips on upping your photography game, get a private tour of the new 35-foot camera, and learn a ton about photography and our nation's cultures. You'll also receive a surprise gift to take away as a token of our appreciation. Also includes perks 1, 2, and 3 above. Add $15 for shipping outside the U.S.

    0 out of 20 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $4,500USD
    Super Limited Edition

    Limited edition archival fine art print, 30"x30"; signed/dated, edition of 7; "Autumn" (image shown below)...the first photo subject with the prototype of the big camera. Add $95 for shipping outside the U.S.

    0 out of 7 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
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