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Peter Beard

Peter Beard

An Artist out of Africa

Collaging drawings, ephemera, photographs, writing, and even plant matter and animal blood, the work of American artist Peter Beard eludes easy categorization; fusing autobiography, environmental activism, and fashion photography. Born and raised in New York City to a distinguished American family, Beard began diary writing and drawing from a young age. As a youth he travelled to Africa and while working at the Tsavo National Park in Kenya, began a life-long fascination with the flora and fauna of the African continent. He purchased a property near the Ngong Hills adjacent to the farm owned by Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen), which would become his lifelong home-base in East Africa and the epicenter of his astounding body of work.

Troubled by the destruction wrought by big game hunting and colonialism in Kenya, Beard began documenting the collapse of nature that surrounded him. While primarily a photographer, his images are enhanced and complicated by the juxtaposition of found objects and journal annotation that build up in an embedded network around his pictures. Newspaper clippings, dried leaves, insects, transcribed telephone messages, marginalia in India ink, quotes, and the like become interweaved with original photographs and drawings. Beard also produces fashion photography and the African landscape, as well its inhabitants - crocodiles, cheetahs, and elephants - often act as a backdrop for models posed in or out of haute couture. Beard photographed the 2009 Pirelli Calendar and has shot many famous faces, including Iman and Cheryl Tiegs. His friendships with artists have included Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger, Andrew Wyeth, Francis Bacon, Truman Capote, Richard Lindner, and Salvador Dalí.

TASCHEN has collaborated with Peter Beard on books that collate his decades of art practice. Titles such as Into The Wild and The End of The Game celebrate his work and are a frightening reminder of the fragility of the earth’s ecosystems and the danger of human impact. Also available as art editions, TASCHEN books on Beard are the ultimate journey to Africa and beyond.

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