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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. The artist:
Born in New York City in 1938, Peter Beard 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 Rudolf in Kenya’s northern frontier. He is a constant creator, Beard the chronicler photographs, writes draws, collages and assembles a history of his life experiences and our own. He lives in New York City, Long Island, and Kenya with his wife, Nejma, and daughter, Zara.