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Photographer, collector, diarist, and writer of books Peter Beard have fashioned his life into a work of art; the illustrated diaries he kept from a young age evolved into a serious career as an artist and earned him a central position in the international art world. He was painted by Francis Bacon and painted on by Salvador Dalí, he made diaries with Andy Warhol and toured with Truman Capote and the Rolling Stones—all of whom are brought to life, literally and figuratively, in his work. As a fashion photographer, he took Vogue stars like Veruschka to Africa and brought new ones—most notably Iman—back to the U.S. with him.
After spending time in Kenya and striking up a friendship with the author Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) in the early 1960s, Beard bought a piece of land near hers. He witnessed the dawn of Kenya’s population explosion, which challenged finite resources and stressed animal populations—including the starving elephants of Tsavo dying by the tens of thousands in a wasteland of eaten trees. So he documented what he saw—with diaries, photographs, and collages. He went against the wind in publishing unique and sometimes shocking books of these works. The corpses were laid bare; the facts carefully recorded, sometimes in type and often by hand. Beard uses his photographs as a canvas onto which he superimposes multi-layered contact sheets, ephemera, found objects, newspaper clippings that are elaborately embellished with meticulous handwriting, old-master inspired drawings and often swaths of animal blood used as paint.
In 2006 TASCHEN published the book that has come to define his oeuvre, signed by the artist and published in two volumes. It sold out instantly and became a highly sought-after collector’s item. Now the book you couldn’t get your hands on is available in one volume, a handsome hardcover edition revised by Nejma Beard with new images never published before.