Peter Beard

I remembered Peter Beard as a world famous photographer, who in 1981, had married the supermodel Cheryl Tiegs. Their marriage lasted a few years, although they seemed quite happy here, presumably at the outset.

Peter Beard was born into wealth. His mother was from railroad money, his father from tobacco, and Peter was raised in New York City, Long Island, and Alabama. He graduated from Yale, and soon after graduation he migrated to Kenya, where he documented, photographically, the demise of African wildlife – especially elephants – which he published in his illustrated book, “The End of the Game.” He took to Africa with a passion, purchasing property in Kenya that served as his artistic base for four decades.

Peter Beard lived life at both ends. In 1996 he was charged and and gored by an elephant and survived. His photographic art was well-known and well-regarded, with his photographs selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars. His private life? Perhaps not so private after all.

Beard befriended and occasionally collaborated with many artists, including Andy Warhol, Andrew Wyeth, Francis Bacon, Truman Capote, Richard Lindner, the Rolling Stones, Salvador Dalí and Karen Blixen. In fact, in Kenya he was a neighbour of Karen Blixen (also known as Isak Dinesen, and of “Out of Africa” fame). Blixen/Dinesen and Meryl Streep (as she portrayed Blixen in the film “Out of Africa”) in the following images.

And once out of Africa, Peter was well known in various NYC night spots, with various women, none of them his wife. He was a bon vivant, or more accurately perhaps, as a “bad” vivant. Whatever.

“There was the time in 2013, The New York Post reported, citing court documents, that Mr. Beard, then 75, returned home about 6 a.m. to the Midtown Manhattan apartment he shared with his wife, Nejma Beard, who was also his agent, after a night’s revels. Ms. Beard did not take kindly to his return — not because of the hour, but because he happened to have two Russian prostitutes in tow. In response, she dialled 911, declared that her husband was attempting suicide and had him committed for a time to a local hospital.”

Vanity Fair, in 2007, had this to say about Peter Beard: “Whether he’s at a New York nightclub or deep in the African wilderness, world-famous photographer and artist Peter Beard is surrounded by drugs, debts, and beautiful women.” Apart from his three wives he was linked romantically with Lee Radziwill, Candice Bergen and others.

Peter, early on, and in later years. Always a good-looking dude.
At the end of March this year, Peter went missing from his Long Island home. There was concern as he was suffering from dementia. Almost three weeks later his body was discovered not far from his home. A sad ending.

Below: Peter’s photograph of orphaned cheetah cubs. Seemed like a good idea to include it here as there is a sadness that Peter captured.