Of his works, many of which tell the beauty and reality, often raw, of nature, Peter Beard, who disappeared at 82 after leaving his home in Montauk, in the Hamptons, Long Island, had told the New York Times: “I think of them as a pile of small and trivial memories put on paper, in collages, photographed and reworked” .
Not at all small or even trivial, his work is one long uninterrupted diary in whose personal existence, memory and artistic life merge into one; in which interests and passions become the object of a visual research capable of incorporating different expressive modalities. His shots are palettes on which they overlap collage, painting, drawing, writing: a creative stratification derived from the habit, cultivated from a very young age, to keep meticulous and accurate diaries.
The ability to mix multiple artistic languages has allowed Beard to always work on a double track: on the one hand the artist, also appreciated by Francis Bacon, Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol, on the other the fashion photographer with a côté rock (he attended Studio 54 and had accompanied the Rolling Stones on tour). For Vogue he had brought stars like Veruschka to Africa and there he had discovered and launched new models, including Iman.
Peter Beard with Lauren Hutton in 1965
© Allan Tannenbaum
In the 1960s Beard had met the writer in Denmark Karen Blixen: it was she who had influenced her love for Africa. After buying land right next to the Blixen house, Beard witnessed the demographic boom in that region and the consequent exploitation of resources and the extermination of elephants in the Tsavo natural park. He documented everything in his diaries, photographs and collages, managing to publish shocking testimonies, collected in the book The End of the Game 1965. Here Beard uses his images for the first time as canvases on which to add several layers of contact sheets, small objects, newspaper clippings, enriched with handwritten texts and drawings inspired by the masters of the past.
Africa has remained a constant in the photographer’s life, who was born in New York in 1938 and lived on Long Island. In addition to many fashion reports, Botswana had taken the Pirelli calendar of 2009, with Mariacarla Boscono, Daria Werbowy, Isabeli Fontana, Lara Stone and Malgosia Bela. By choosing the aquatic oasis of the Okavango delta and the arid expanse of the Kalahari desert, two areas still intact, he wanted to represent nature as a fragile entity in constant movement, with an emphasis on climate change, overpopulation and depletion of natural resources. “My real concern,” he said, “is the destruction of nature globally. We have totally forgotten what evolution is based on and how important diversity in nature is. It is the concept behind survival.”
Peter Beard’s works have been sold in many major galleries and auction houses. In October 2017, a silver gelatin printed collage depicting orphaned cheetah cubs near Nyeri, Kenya, was sold for $ 672,500.
The publishing house Taschen has published two monographs and two special editions that collect Beard’s works, available on taschen.com. In particular, by “Peter Beard. XL ”a new edition was released on March 22nd.