Peter Beard’s photographs are vital historical accounts of our environment’s past and present. As well as being adventurous celebrations that highlight wildlife’s beauty, his photographs are stark reminders of the crises such as starvation and overpopulation that our planet faces today. His documentary photographs are unique and multi-layered, often combining collage, painting, text, found objects and drawing.
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Beard was born on January the 22nd, 1938 in New York. He was inspired by photography from a young age, after his grandmother gave him his first camera and spent summers with him in Tuxedo Park. Beard developed a fascination with capturing scenes from nature. He spent his childhood moving between cities such as New York and Alabama, whilst constantly documenting his surroundings in diaries. In 1955, at the age of seventeen, he travelled with Charles Darwin’s great grandson Quentin Keynes to Zuhuland, Africa, and made a film documentary about the wildlife and rhinos.
After his trip, Beard returned to the U.S. He enrolled at Yale to study medicine, but soon switched to art history, and had Josef Albers as his tutor. During his studies he yearned to be back in Africa, and flew to Kenya as soon as he graduated. Beard bought a home at Hog Ranch after the president of Kenya commissioned him to document the wildlife of the country, in locations such as Tsavo National Park. His 1960s photographs focus on the demise of the landscape, and the immoral imbalance between animals and humans. He also published several books about his experiences in Africa, often shocking the world with the harsh reality of the suffering that animals endure.
During the 1970s and 80s, Beard returned to New York to photograph celebrities and supermodels in nightclubs such as Studio 54. He became well acquainted with artists such as Andy Warhol and Francis Bacon, who featured him in their work. Beard also helped the career of famous models such as Veruschka and Iman, and focused more on fashion photography. His two diverse photographic settings of Sub-Saharan Africa and New York City connected around the theme of power and human brutality. His later photo-collage work combined the two genres into powerful and highly interesting works.
Beard’s work has been exhibited at the Blum Helman Gallery in New York, the International Center of Photography, New York, and the Repetto Gallery in London.
Beard currently lives and works between New York and Kenya.