Peter Beard by Owen Edwards and Steven M. L. Aronson XL Taschen Book
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Artist, diarist, collector, and writer Peter Beard (1938-2020) 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 collaborated with Francis Bacon and Salvador Dalí, he made diaries with Andy Warhol, worked on books with scientists like Dr. Norman Borlaug, Dr. Richard Laws and Alistair Graham, and toured with Truman Capote, Terry Southern and the Rolling Stones -- all of whom are brought to life, literally and figuratively, in his work. He delved into the world of fashion for its beautiful women, taking Vogue stars like Veruschka to Africa and bringing new ones 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 50 acres next to her farm with the stipulation that he would film and write about the land and its flora and fauna. 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, including The End of the Game. The corpses were laid bare; the facts carefully recorded, sometimes in type and often by hand. Beard used his photographs as a canvas onto which he superimposed 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 first 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. In the decade since, the monograph has been revived in two smaller versions; but sometimes, bigger is better. Now, the book you haven’t been able to get your hands on is available in one large-format volume.
Peter Beard (1938–2020) began taking photographs and keeping diaries from early childhood. By the time he graduated from Yale University, he had developed a keen interest in Africa. Throughout the 1960s and ’70s he worked in Tsavo Park, the Aberdares and Lake Turkana in Kenya’s northern frontier. A constant creator, Beard the chronicler photographed, wrote, drew, collaged, and assembled a history of his life experiences and our own.
Nejma Beard is the Executive Director of the Peter Beard Studio. Her spirit and experience are synchronous with Beard’s -- having been born and raised in Kenya. This deep familiarity and a devotion to a place and a people formed their unique collaborative relationship. Primary to her work is a deep concern for the future of the world and a commitment to ecologic and humanitarian efforts.
David Fahey is co-owner of the Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles. During his 31-year career in the field, he has collaborated on over 45 fine art photography books. He is the co-vice president of the Herb Ritts Foundation and serves on the Photography Advisory Council for the J. Paul Getty Museum.
Owen Edwards has written about photography for more than 30 years for numerous publications including American Photographer, New York Times Magazine and Smithsonian.
Steven M. L. Aronson, a former book publisher, is a writer and editor. He edited and published Peter Beard’s book Longing for Darkness and wrote the T.V. special The End of the Game. He is the author of HYPE and the co-author of Savage Grace.
Ruth Ansel is an award-winning art director known for her innovative design at many of America's top fashion and cultural magazines since the 1960s. Ansel Design Studio (est. 1992) has produced international fashion campaigns and books with photographers including Peter Beard, Richard Avedon and Annie Leibovitz.