Peter Beard, the original wild-man-poet-adventurer, has been as fearless roaming the nightclubs of Manhattan as the plains of Kenya. He liked to surround himself with dangerous things. Sometimes pretty women, drugs and booze; other times lions, guns and trampling elephants. For the son of a wealthy industrialist, this was not the typical career choice.
Beard’s dashing spirit inspired the likes of Mick Jagger, Salvador Dali and Francis Bacon. Andy Warhol, his friend and neighbor (in Montauk, NY) once described Beard as:
“One of the most fascinating men in the world…he’s like a modern Tarzan. He jumps in and out of the snake pit he keeps at his home. He cuts himself and paints with the blood. He wears sandals and no socks in the middle of Winter. He lived in a parked car on 13th Street for six months. He moved when he woke up and found a transvestite sleeping on the roof.”
Even though this Tarzan had many Janes, the one who stirred the loincloth of his youth was the brilliant Danish author Karen Blixen (aka Isak Denison) who wrote Out of Africa. The novel inspired Beard to travel to Africa in the late 50s, barefoot and penniless, but it was the beginning of a creative period that would inspire his magnificent journals and artworks.
Beard’s defining secret may be that he does not care (or know) what the world thinks of him. He is a photographer who has contempt for photography, a diarist whose words are pictures and his pictures, words. He is a city playboy who only feels at home in the wild. He is a trust-fund kid who was perennially broke.
Text by Howard Collinge- The Unique Creatures