Peter Beard: the greatest adventurer of photography

“Young Africa” ​​by Beatrice Brandini

Photo by Peter Beard

From today we will be orphans of an artist who has never spared himself, to take a photo, to defend elephants and nature, to tell his Africa.

Janice Dickinson photographed by Peter Beard in 1985

Peter Beard left us and his disappearance disturbed us a lot, probably also because of how it happened (he had moved away, without a trace, from his estate on Long Island on March 31, his lifeless body was found only twenty days later in a wood). But, as the very grieved family expressed, “he died where he had always loved to live, in nature”.

Peter Beard in a youth photo

Peter Hill Beard was a beautiful man, with an innate class that only the children of high society have so naturally. His maternal great-grandfather, James Jerome Hill, a billionaire who owed his wealth to the railway sector, had brought him closer to the arts by being a famous patron.

Peter Beard with Karen Blixen

Beard graduated from Yale in art history, and the meeting that probably changed his life was that with Karen Blixen (“My Africa”), with whom he collaborated until 1962, deciding to move to Kenya, just near to the home of the Danish writer.


Photos by Peter Beard taken from the book of the same name, published by Taschen

Fascinated by nature, especially from Africa, since he had discovered it on a trip to the Natural Museum of New York. From there he began keeping diaries, completing them with very accurate details and photographs. In 1965 (he was 27 years old) he published his first book: “The end of the Game”, a collection of photos, writings, documents that testified to the disappearance of elephants in Kenya.


Photo by Peter Beard, taken from the 2009 Pirelli Calendar

In the seventies he collaborated with Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon and Truman Capote, and already in 1975 he organized his first photographic exhibition in New York (another one will follow, in 1977, at the International Center of Photography). His photos appear immediately different, absolutely innovative in the panorama of the time, they were works of art. Beard always added a personal imprint, a scribble, a drop of blood, various objects … Also for this reason his photos have always been enormously valued, sometimes touching the record figure of 500 thousand dollars (in 2017 his collage, depicting cheetah cubs , was sold for $ 672,500).

Photos by Peter Beard, taken frPom the book published by Taschen

The life of man and that of the artist were in symbiosis, “half Tarzan and half Lord Byron”, as the writer Bob Colacello defined him. Four weddings, discoverer and lover of beautiful women (like Iman, Somali princess, identified in a village and become one of the most famous supermodels in the world); activist for the protection of nature and animal species (before it was fashionable). A true adventurer, a tireless traveler who swam with crocodiles, was loaded by rhinos, was trampled on by herds of elephants.


Mood Africa by Beatrice Brandini

Each of his photos was extraordinary, just as his diaries were wonderful, in which he mixed newspaper clippings, messages, leaves, insects, unmistakable sepia photos and much more, sometimes coloring with brush strokes of his or animal’s blood . A long journey, never interrupted, that of Peter Beard, in which personal existence, memory and artistic life mingled, merging into one.

Exhibitions on him have touched international museums such as in Berlin, London, Tokyo, Vienna and Milan, his work is in private collections around the world.

Cover of the beautiful book Peter Beard, published by TASCHEN

He has collaborated with Vogue for many years, has created an amazing Pirelli calendar (2009), capable of mixing different languages ​​and techniques. Recently, speaking of his collages, he said: “I think of them as a pile of small and trivial memories put on paper, photographed and reworked”. But dear Peter, many of us would have made false papers to own one, wonderful and unique timeless items.

Peter Beard

The perception that nature was a fragile entity, that climate change was destroying it and that natural resources were not unlimited, are all themes that always recur in his work. “My real concern is the destruction of nature on a global level, we have totally forgotten what evolution is based on and how important the diversity of nature is. It is a basic concept for our survival. “ This was Peter Beard’s statement at the presentation of the Pirelli calendar. Who knows what you would have said these days, in full emergency Codiv-19, in which the whole world is in the balance, fragile, whose care could also come from lessons and messages from men like you.

Good life to everyone!



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