Peter Hill Beard: American photographer and writer (1938 - 2020) | Biography
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Peter Hill Beard
American photographer and writer

Peter Hill Beard

Peter Hill Beard
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American photographer and writer
Was Photographer Journalist Socialite Writer
From United States of America
Field Arts Journalism Literature
Gender male
Birth 22 January 1938, New York City, USA
Death 19 April 2020, Camp Hero State Park, USA (aged 82 years)
Star sign Aquarius
Spouse: Cheryl Tiegs
Pomfret School
Yale University
The details (from wikipedia)


Peter Hill Beard (January 22, 1938 – c. March/April 2020) was an American artist, photographer, diarist, and writer who lived and worked in New York City, Montauk, and Kenya. His photographs of Africa, African animals and the journals that often integrated his photographs were widely shown and published since the 1960s.

Early life and education

Peter Beard was born in 1938 as a New York heir to a railroad fortune on his mother's side of the family and a tobacco inheritance on his father's. He was raised in New York City, Alabama, and Islip, Long Island, Beard began keeping diaries as a young boy and making photographs, as an extension of the diaries, at the age of 12. A graduate of Pomfret School, he entered Yale University in 1957, with the intention of pursuing pre-med studies, only to switch his major to art history. At Yale, he was tapped into the secret society Scroll and Key. His mentors at Yale included Josef Albers, Richard Lindner and Vincent Scully. Beard graduated with an A.B. in 1961.

Inspired by earlier trips to Africa in both 1955 and 1960, Beard traveled to Kenya upon graduation. Working at Tsavo National Park, he photographed and documented the demise of 35,000 elephants and other wildlife, later to become the subject of his first book, The End of the Game. During this time, Beard acquired Hog Ranch, a property near the Ngong Hills adjacent to the coffee farm owned by Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen), which would become his lifelong home-base in East Africa.


Beard's photographs of Africa, African animals and journals that often integrate his photographs have been widely shown and published since the 1970s. Each of his works is unique, a combination of his photography with elements derived from his daily diary-keeping, a practice he continued until his death in 2020. These volumes contain newspaper clippings, dried leaves, insects, old sepia-toned photos, transcribed telephone messages, marginalia in India ink, photographs of women, quotes, found objects, and the like; these become incorporated, with original drawings and collage by Beard. Certain of his works incorporate animal blood, sometimes Beard's own blood (in sparing quantities), a painting medium the artist favored.

The Peter Beard Studio and Archive was started by Peter and Nejma Beard, and is the primary source for artwork by Peter Beard.  The Archive maintains a repository of published and unpublished written and visual material relating to the artist’s life, work, projects, travels, exhibitions, and relations with his cohort.

Beard's first exhibition was at the Blum Helman Gallery, New York City, in 1975. Landmark museum exhibitions have been held at the International Center of Photography, New York City, in 1977, and the Centre national de la photographie, Paris, in 1997. Gallery exhibitions followed in Berlin, London, Toronto, Madrid, Milan, Tokyo and Vienna. Beard's work is included in private collections throughout the world.

In 2017, Beard was sued by actor David Spade who purchased one of his works. Spade tried to resell a Peter Beard photograph that he had purchased from dealer Peter Tunney but the unsigned work could not be authenticated.

Personal life

Descended from distinguished American families on both sides, Beard was one of three sons born to Roseanne Hoar Beard and Anson McCook Beard, Jr. A great-grandfather, James Jerome Hill, was founder of the Great Northern Railway in the United States in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Having made his fortune in the railroad business, James Jerome Hill was a great patron of the arts. All of his heirs were exposed to and owned great collections, presumably having a strong influence on Beard’s interests in the arts and beauty.

Beard married his first wife (Minnie Cushing Beard Coleman) in 1967; their marriage lasted only briefly. His second wife was supermodel Cheryl Tiegs, from 1982 to 1986.

In 1986, he married Nejma Khanum. The couple has a daughter, Zara, for whom his book, Zara's Tales, was written.

In 1996, he was charged by an elephant and gored in the right leg. After arriving at the hospital without a pulse, he was revived, and survived.

Beard befriended and in some cases collaborated with many artists including Andy Warhol, Andrew Wyeth, Francis Bacon, Karen Blixen, Truman Capote, Richard Lindner, and Salvador Dalí. He also photographed many other well-known people.


On March 31, 2020, Beard wandered away from his Montauk, Long Island, home off Old Montauk Highway east of Deep Hollow Ranch around 4:40 pm. At the time of his disappearance, he was suffering from dementia and ill health after a stroke. Despite exhaustive searches, he was not found. After three days, the case was turned over to detectives in the East Hampton Police Department.

On April 19, 2020, Beard’s body was found by a hunter, David Schleifer (retired NYC Firefighter) in a densely wooded area in Camp Hero State Park in Montauk Point, New York. A cause of death has yet to be determined. He was 82.


Selected books

  • Graham, Alistair, and Beard, Peter (1973). Eyelids of Morning: The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men. Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society. ISBN 0-8212-0464-5
  • Beard, Peter; and Gatura, Kamante (1975). Longing for Darkness: Kamante's Tales from Out of Africa. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. ISBN 0-15-153080-7
  • Beard, Peter (2004). Zara's Tales: Perilous Escapades in Equatorial Africa. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-679-42659-0
  • Beard, Peter (1965). The End of the Game. New York: Viking Press. Reprinted New York: Doubleday, 1977. Japan: Camera Manichi, 1978. Germany: Taschen, 2008. ISBN 978-3-8365-0530-7
  • Beard, Peter; Beard, Nejma; Edwards, Owen; Aronson, Steven M.L. (2008). Peter Beard (Collector’s Edition). Germany: Taschen, 2006. (Art Edition) Germany: Taschen, 2007. (Trade Edition) Germany: Taschen, 2008, 2013, and 2020. ISBN 978-3-8365-7742-7
  • Beard, Peter; Paul Theroux. 50th Anniversary Edition of The End of the Game. Taschen. ISBN-978-3-8365-5547-0


  • Beard, Peter (1993). Diary: From a Dead Man’s Wallet: Confessions of a Bookmaker. Japan: Libroport Publishing Co., Ltd. ISBN 978-4-8457-0791-1
  • Beard, Peter, and Caujolle, Christian (1996). Peter Beard: Photo Poche #67. Paris: Centre national de la photographie, ISBN 2867541034
  • Beard, Peter (1997). Oltre la fine del Mondo. Milan: Grafiche Milani.
  • Beard, Peter (1998). Beyond the End of the World. Milan: Universe Publishing (a division of Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.). ISBN 978-0-7893-0147-5
  • Beard, Peter (1999). Peter Beard: Stress & Density. Vienna: KunstHausWien, Museums Betriebs Gesellschaft, mbH. ISBN 978-3901247071
  • Beard, Peter (1999). Peter Beard: Fifty Years of Portraits. Santa Fe, NM: Arena Editions. ISBN 1-892041-15-4


Documentaries featuring Peter Beard

  • Peter Beard, scrapbooks from Africa and beyond (1998). Program33
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 20 Apr 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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