Peter Beard is a photographer sometimes described as “half Tarzan, half Byron”, collector, diarist, who lived a life in Africa through the ’60s and ’70s. He wrote diaries, created collages, and took photographs of what moved him. They are not for the faint-hearted, his drawings and photography are as moving as they are shocking.
When he was 17, Beard went on what turned out to be a life-changing summer trip to Africa with Charles Darwin’s grandson, and explorer, Quentin George Keynes. They ventured to a place that Beard still takes much enjoyment in trying to pronounce – Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, (pron. shushlooeey-umfalowzee), Zululand – where they worked on a film about the now almost-gone white and black rhinos.
As a fashion photographer, he took Vogue stars like Veruschka to Africa and brought new ones – most notably Iman – back to the U.S. with him.
For twenty years, from the mid-60s to the mid-80s, Peter Beard was the Golden Child of New York. Peter knew everyone who mattered, e.g. Jackie Kennedy, Francis Bacon, Mick Jagger, Truman Capote and Andy Warhol, and was liked and respected by all. He was painted by Francis Bacon, painted on by Salvador Dali, books with Jacqueline Onassis and Mick Jagger – all of whom are brought to life, literally and figuratively, in his work.
Veruschka by Peter Beard for Play Boy magazine.
The illustrated diaries he kept from a young age evolved into a serious career as an artist and earned him a position in the international art world.
In 1975, Peter Beard was in Nairobi when he was blown away by the sight of Iman, who was a university student. Peter brought her to New York, where they created what she later called the “Iman mythology.” At a press conference, the photographer claimed he had “discovered” her in the African jungle and they pretended she did not speak English…
Peter Beard has been obsessed with images of death and loss since he made his reputation in 1965 with The End of the Game, a chilling photographic chronicle of natural disaster in Africa by an encroaching civilization
“When I first went to Kenya in August 1955, I could never have guessed what was going to happen. Kenya’s population was roughly five million, with about 100 tribes scattered throughout the endless “wild—deer—ness” – it was authentic, unspoiled, teeming with big game — so enormous it appeared inexhaustible.” -Peter Beard.