Our book this month looks at the remarkable life and work of unique photographer Peter Beard.
Artist, diarist, collector and writer Peter Beard (1938-2020) fashioned his life into a work of art; the illustrated diaries he kept from a young age evolved into a serious career as an artist and earned him a central position in the international art world. He collaborated with Francis Bacon and Salvador Dalí, he made diaries with Andy Warhol and toured with Truman Capote, Terry Southern and the Rolling Stones – all of whom are brought to life, literally and figuratively, in his work.
He delved into the world of fashion for its beautiful women, taking Vogue stars like Veruschka to Africa and bringing new ones back to the US with him. After spending time in Kenya and striking up a friendship with the author Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) in the early 1960s, Beard bought 50 acres next to her farm with the stipulation that he would film and write about the land and its flora and fauna.
He witnessed the dawn of Kenya’s population explosion, which challenged finite resources and stressed animal populations, including the starving elephants of Tsavo dying by the tens of thousands in a wasteland of eaten trees. So he documented what he saw with diaries, photographs and collages. He went against the wind in publishing unique and sometimes shocking books of these works, including The End of the Game.
Peter Beard began taking photographs and keeping diaries from early childhood. By the time he graduated from Yale University, he had developed a keen interest in Africa. A constant creator, Beard the chronicler photographed, wrote, drew, collaged and
assembled a history of his life experiences and our own.