There is a lot of surface glamour to Peter Beard and the stories of excess that surround him, and it’s hard to separate his work from his personal life. He brought fashion and supermodels to Africa and shot them in the bush cavorting with wild animals. And he brought Africa to New York, in his wildest days settling eye-popping bar bills by giving the owners pieces of his art.

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© Peter Beard

But it’s the dynamic between glamour and the wild, conservation and violence that gives his work an edge and makes it continually current and unique.  He works in collage; his pictures are teeming with indecipherable notes and tiny photographs. The crowded margins of his pictures show a man who is fascinated by how existence teeters on the brink of chaos. All his images share a sense of space being threatened and encroached on. It’s a straightforward but brilliant analogy for how land in Africa is under threat by vested interests.

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© Peter Beard


Looking at his blood-smeared but beautiful images is a visceral experience, where claustrophobia is mixed with fascination and a sense of what there is to lose.

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His Africa is the Africa from The Heart of Darkness, a place of raw and ancient impulses. He sometimes quotes from Conrad’s novel in his collages.

© Peter Beard

Lastly, there is a great interview piece with Peter Beard on Nowness, made by the director Derek Peck.