Manhattan, Montauk, Maneaters & Models, Peter Beard knew them all. In Memory of the Tarzan who went to Yale.

Posted by Matt Dougan on 28th Apr 2020

Manhattan, Montauk, Maneaters & Models, Peter Beard knew them all. In Memory of the Tarzan who went to Yale.

Likely the most known of Peter Beard's Images. Dear diary......1965

Last week, renowned wildlife and Fashion photographer Peter Beard was found dead in Montauk, New York, at the age of 82. I wrote my Original Article on Peter Beard Several years ago and I have now updated it in Memoriam to Mr. Beard. The Beard piece I first encountered was the brilliant & stark image "Dear Diary" from 1965 and I was hooked.   That work was in good company with such Epic events in 1965, the Vietnam war, The civil rights movement, the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" was on the airwaves and whom Beard would eventually become friends and photograph on their epic 1972 American tour. Beard's work stands out. Once his hands have been on it, you know it...  You recognize the man who lived a thousand lives and who likely was the recipient of a million jealous stares. Reading of his exploits and viewing his images, I thought " what a life! This Man has done it, seen it and had it all" along with a few things he would rather have not had, including a trampling and skewering by an Elephant in 1996. Few can boast of a life of good looks, wealth, glamorous girlfriends and wives the likes of Super Model Cheryl Tiegs, to mingling and photographing the rich, famous and powerful, everyone from the  Kennedy's & Picasso, Francis Bacon and the model Iman, to Andy Warhol and Mick Jagger. The faces and images the shutter of his cameras closed on are too enumerable to encompass here not withstanding, the few I show are enough to realize the Brilliance of what we have now lost.

Picasso in Frejus by Peter Beard 1963

Peter was born a New York aristocrat, heir to a railroad fortune on his mother’s side of the family and a tobacco inheritance on his father’s. His grandmother, Ruth (Hill) Beard, married, as her second husband, Pierre Lorillard IV, who was a tobacco magnate and is credited with helping to popularize the tuxedo. A great-grandfather, James Jerome Hill, was founder of the Great Northern Railway in the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries. Railroads, in part, provided the infrastructure for colonization both in the United States and Africa, promoting expansion into undeveloped frontiers. James Jerome Hill made his fortune in the railroad business, leaving as legacy of both money, colonialism and art to his great-grandson Peter. While not rejecting money from this trust, Beard lamented the expansion of Western capitalism into Africa. James Jerome Hill was a great patron of the arts and all of his heirs were exposed to and owned great collections, thus having a great impact on Peter's interest in the arts and beauty.

Peter made his first trip to Africa when he was 17, taking photographs with a Voigtländer camera his grandmother had given him. (Some of the pictures he took that summer would end up in The End of the Game.) In 1957 Beard went to Yale as a pre-medical student, but perceiving humans as the main disease soon switched to art history, studying under Vincent Scully, Joseph Albers, and Richard Lindner. As Beard's Friend Bob Colacello Stated, "This was as if Tarzan went to Yale"


A young PB on a vintage Indian motorcycle....

Trips to Africa in 1955 to 1960 piqued Beard's interests and after graduating from Yale, he returned to Kenya via Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) in Rungstedlund, Denmark. She was the author of Out of Africa, Shadows In the Grass, Gothic Tales and Mottos In My Life. Beard met Blixen through his cousin Jerome Hill. In the early 60s he worked at Kenya’s Tsavo National Park, during which time he photographed and documented the demise of over 35,000 elephants and 5000 Black Rhinos and published two End of the Game books (1965 & 1977). During this same time period, he acquired Hog Ranch, the property adjacent to Karen Blixen’s near the Ngong Hills and made it his home base in East Africa. Beard wrote further works on his African experience: 

Peter at his great Escape Hog Ranch in Kenya

Herd of Elephants Africa 1960's first published in End of the Game 1965. 

Peter Beard's photographs of Africa, African animals, and the journals that often integrate his photographs have been widely shown and published since the 1970s. Beard is famous not only for his photographs of endangered African elephants but also of rock stars like Mick Jagger & David Bowie, to supermodels ImanVeruschka.

The Beautiful Iman by Peter Beard

Veruschka for Vogue

One of the most famous of the modeling and wildlife images by Beard is the striking and beautiful Maureen Gallagher nude, feeding a Giraffe at night. Beard's milieu consisted of Andy Warhol, Jackie Onassis, Lee Radziwill, Truman Capote, and Bianca Jagger who all lived and rented houses in Montauk and Manhattan in the 1970s and 80s. Beard also had a close relationship with the late painter, Francis Bacon (painter), he photographed Bacon and was the model for several of Bacon's paintings. Beard is also famous for traveling with and photographing the Rolling Stones on their infamous 1972 tour of America for the Famous Exile on Main street album. .

In 1974, he had begun doing fashion work for Vogue, when he started creating his multilayered, mixed-media diaries—an intensely personal and original style showcased in an exhibition at the International Center of Photography in New York in 1977. Although observers saw ecological themes in Beard’s work, he resisted being labeled an environmentalist. His worldview had more to do with the brutality of the natural world, the violent nature of existence, and the folly of man. Love him or hate him, Beard long foresaw the current Dilemma we now face with the extinction of species in the world and voiced his concern and disgust in interviews including a recent one that is stirring in it's own right and which you can view in the video here.

Beard channels his creative energy into his collage-work and diaries, which he began to compile in 1949 at the age of eleven and continued till his death. Peter Beard began keeping diaries as a child and after discovering a love of photography, used photographs to extend and enhance them.  He took many pictures of the wildlife in Africa and began putting them into collages and using animal blood and remains along with clippings to create his work. In these works, he documented the history of his relationships with (among other things): Africa, Karen Blixen, the New York art scene, the fashion world, Hollywood, and the Kennedy administration. Page after page is covered with photographs of women, transcribed telephone messages, marginalia in India ink, clippings from the daily newspapers, dried leaves and insects, old sepia-toned photographs, drawings of animals and people by Kikuyu artists, quotes by Joseph Conrad, found objects, images of decaying elephant carcasses, and sometimes, Beard’s own blood.

His first exhibit was at the Blum Helman Gallery In New York in 1975 and was followed in 1977 by the landmark installation of his photographs, elephant carcasses, burned diaries, taxidermy, African artifacts, books and personal memorabilia at the International Center of Photography (his first one man show) in New York City.
In addition to creating original artwork, Beard befriended and collaborated on projects with many artists including Andy Warhol, Andrew Wyeth, Richard Lindner, Terry Southern, Truman Capote, and Francis Bacon. In 1996, shortly after he was skewered and trampled by an elephant, his first major retrospective opened at the Centre National de la Photographie in Paris, followed by other exhibits in Berlin, London, Toronto, Madrid, Milan, Tokyo and Vienna.

Beard wrote further works on his African experience: Eyelids of the Morning: The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men(1973), Longing for Darkness (1975), and his most recent books Zara’s Tales: Perilous Escapades in Equatorial Africa (2004) written for his daughter and his last book Peter Beard, published by Taschen in November 2006.

You can see the works of Peter Beard at the online Art site here is the link:

We have lost a beautiful Soul. Peter lived such a wild and free life and bless him for that. Although I didn't know him personally, I identified with his Brilliant Artistry, his love of Nature, his Rogueness and Intellect and I'm going to miss him. This man touched many with his energy and inspiration. Peter was as his family stated, "Most at home in Nature" and it appears that he may have gotten his final wish to leave this existence out in the one he loved most. Peter is survived by his wife Nejma and daughter Zara. Condolences and Blessings to all Friends and Family of Peter, You have lost a good one.

all photographs copyright Peter Beard