Peter Beard - The Photographer Who Created A World I Will Long For All My Life
The photographer Peter Beard was found dead yesterday after having been missed for nearly three weeks from his home in Montauk, Long Island. He was suffering from dementia, other than that people wouldn´t have worried that much about him, because he loved to disappear. Mostly into the New York nightlife, even in his eighties. But even though, his family and friends kind of feel that he died the way he lived: surrounded by nature, and on his very own.
For me his pictures were more inspirational than everything else I used to look at from when I grew up. His way of covering Africa and the "End Of The Game" (his famous book about how man kills the enviroment of all kind of species on the fifth contient). His lifestyle in New York, where he grew up as the wealthy heir to an enormous fortune, mingling with the rich and beautiful, a picture book handsome ladies man, being involved with models, socialites and stylists from all parts of the world.
I met him once, when he was in Paris during couture shows in the mid nineties to open his own show of pictures he took of the late Karen Blixen, another hero of mine - and his personal idol; the Danish writer who "had a farm in Africa", close to Nairobi, where Beard would later buy property himself to become her neighbour.
I remember how impressed I was by his blue eyes, like so often unterlined by his matching blue skirt and jacket, but most of all by his simple leather sandals and naked feet that seemed strangely out of place among all these fashion people who gathered to honor this charismatic guy.
He was almost sixty years old then, still very good looking in the company of a much younger girlfriend, but for me he was still the glamorous boyfriend of Lee Radzivil, Jackie Kennedy Onassis´ sister and the chronist of an aera I so deeply glorified - his portraits of them taken during a summer on the Greek island of Scorpios that belonged to Jackie´s then husband (and Lee´s former lover) Aristoteles Onassis were as intimate as they were beautiful. And new for that matter, as his way of "grap a moment in time to save it for eternity" was something he kind of invented.
Another picture I love, I know from the walls of "Paris Bar", my favorite restaurant in Berlin, whose wall is covered with art of all kinds. It shows a beautiful young Brigitte Bardot next to one of Beard´s cousins - and also the way Beard treats pictures, by writing on them, painting around them, fixing collages from different motives together: his invention of a scrap-book-diary-technique is also something we all owe him, and what I had in the back of my mind whenever I was creating the look of a magazine together with an art director.
When you watch the little short documentary following the multi artist and adventurer Peter Beard during 1996, shot and edited by Lars Bruun, you might find some of the sparkle I am talking about.
Then go and see Africa, as soon as possible, with your own eyes but maybe with his perspective in mind.