“The last thing left in nature is the beauty of women” – Peter Beard
Peter Hill Beard rose to fame in the 60s when his infamous diaries were first published; combining his photographs with insects, leaves, feathers, transcribed telephone messages, quotes, bref – anything and everything that would inspire him – his unique documentation of African wildlife and landscapes transgressed regular travel journaling.
Beard’s chronicling of events in diaries started from a young age, as his favourable background enabled him to grow up surrounded by artwork. This shaped his liking for art and aesthetic beauty, and would later come to influence his work and career path. Indeed, he explored this passion as an Art History student at Yale University under the tutelage of famed artists such as Josef Alberts before making his way to Kenya, where he would create his renowned journals and publish his first book “The End of the Game” (1963).
Beard’s artistic abilities are reflected in his note-taking, as his notorious use of paint (and his own blood) to render footprints and handprints on his images highlight the rawness and violence of African wildlife and the human relation to it. The use of sepia-toned film further add a vintage and authentic feel to his images, conveying a sense of nostalgia for the past which he would further explore through themes of life and death. Indeed, as an environmental activist, Beard tried to spread awareness by displaying the effects of growing industrialisation on the African continent.
Alongside his love for African wildlife was his love for women. Beard was particularly attracted to female beauty, and would often assimilate the two in his diaries and photographs. By placing a partially-clad or nude female bodies in the midst of the African wilderness, he played with the idea of primitivism and appealed to women’s animalistic sexuality to display his version of femininity. Posing next to powerful and wild creatures such as elephants, lions and rhinoceros, his portrayals of women were empowering and beautiful and he would regularly shoot and feature in fashion reviews such as Elle, Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar.
Nicknamed ‘the reckless playboy’ or yet ‘Tarzan’, the photographer was indeed known as a regular Casanova, with his views on monogamy and marriage sometimes deemed controversial. Nevertheless, his brilliant ability to capture beauty is undeniable, and his pioneering will to raise awareness of environmental issues truly placed him ahead of his time. Having worked alongside personalities such as Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon and Karen Blixen to shape and spread his unique vision of the world, he will truly be remembered as one-of-a-kind.
To sum it up, Beard, you seemed like an incredible man, who lived an incredible life.