Peter Beard, of course, is the photographer alternately known for his pictures of Africa and African wildlife, his elaborate photo-collage “diaries” incorporating everything from news clippings to smears of his own blood, his photographs of international supermodels and rock stars, his leading-man good looks, and his ardent pursuit of New York nightlife. Shuttling between his ranch in Kenya and his estate in Montauk, Beard was a fixture at Studio 54 in the seventies, partying with the likes of Andy Warhol, Mick and Bianca Jagger, and Jackie Onassis. He was close with Janice Dickinson, Paula Barbieri, Veruschka, and Iman and was married to Cheryl Tiegs for five years. Although Beard has always been well regarded as a photographer, and once counted Francis Bacon as an admirer and friend, he has never reached the level of respect reserved for so-called serious artists.
Beard channels most of his creative energy into his collage-work and diaries, which he began to compile in 1949 at the age of eleven. Peter Beard began keeping diaries as a child and after discovering a love of photography, used photographs to extend and enhance them. Beard read Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa, which inspired him to travel to Africa in 1955. He took many pictures of the wildlife there and began putting them into collages and using animal blood and remains along with clippings to create his work.
Beard attended Yale University where he enrolled as a pre-medical student but quickly changed his major to art history. His first exhibition was at the Blum Helman Gallery in 1975. This switch to Art is not surprising considering the interest in art his family has had, for generations, both as artists and patrons of the arts. Later, after meeting Blixen in Denmark, he purchased a 43-acre (170,000 m2) farm in Africa. This piece of land was adjacent to her Karen farm in Kenya, and to Giraffe Manor at the foot of the Ngong Hills — a property which he named “Hog Ranch”.