Peter Beard: A Wild Life

The Artist and Photographer On His Lifelong Dedication to the Natural World

Peter Beard has been documenting and interpreting Africa’s epic landscapes and indigenous species for nearly six decades. Here he gives a rare insight into his life and practice in this meditative short from director Derek Peck. Shot at Beard’s home in Montauk, Long Island, we find the artist, author and photographer continuing to develop his complex collage practice that brings together found objects, contact sheets, literary quotes and photographs from Tsavo, Kenya, where he made some of his most memorable and affecting work on elephants in the 60s and 70s. “It does the heart good to see what nature has made available to us,” he says in today’s film. “Nature is the best thing we’ve got.” In his delicate, ornate work, his passion for the natural world is evident, and his commitment to the protection of the environment remains unwavering. “Peter is by turns charming and humorous, dark and brooding, and nostalgic,” Peck says of working with Beard. “Every photo in the collage would trigger a stream of thought about his time in Africa, photography, Montauk, and, especially, his concern for, and anger over, the state of the natural world. This subject more than any other has been at the heart of his work over his lifetime.”

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Conversations (4)

  • Jo Richmond-Hughes
    A touching and relevant piece...PB continues to be inspirational and insightful. I lived at Hog Ranch in Kenya for some time and Peter always had a different and truthful way of looking at things. He was way ahead of his time, and no one listened...things have gone the way he predicted...Lovely to see him again...
  • Maxclev
    Always been a fan of PB...very nice piece...
  • Franco De Rose
    brilliant piece
  • Guillaume Bonn
    A beautiful film by Mr Peck and an important message from Peter Beard. For personal reasons I am happy to see Peter whom I spent 2 years of my life with following him in Africa and Europe from 1996-98 during the filming of my own documentary...Peter has always been true to himself and no one has been listening and the planet is going nowhere...Thanks PB and nice to see you after so long!

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    Kook Paradise

    Veteran Surfers Danny DiMauro and Tin Ojeda Parody Montauk’s New Long Boarding Craze

    From breath-taking beach yoga warm-ups to artistic board decorations and wipe-outs on mammoth 2ft swells, Danny DiMauro and Tin Ojeda show up the hype surrounding New York’s version of Malibu in their new film Kook Paradise. Shot on an old camcorder on Ditch Plains Beach in Montauk, the short plays on the aesthetics of 1960’s surfploitation films and pokes fun at a modern beachtown with surf fever. “Both of us are pranksters always playing jokes on one another down at the beach,” explains DiMauro. Known for its bohemian and unpretentious atmosphere, Montauk has been the choice destination for artists escaping the city since Andy Warhol, photographer Peter Beard and The Rolling Stones discovered the spot in the sixties. Recently, the town has become the epicenter of the East Coast’s surfing boom, with ‘kooks’—poor surfers who don’t really know what they’re doing, especially those new to the sport—descending on the area in droves. DiMauro teamed up with artist Tin Ojeda, known for his Drugmoneyart T-shirt line, to capture the ensuing comedy in a photo ‘zine. “We kept getting caught taking photos of people, so Tin decided to remedy the problem by using an old camcorder he had,” explains DiMauro. “When we watched the tape, there was so much hilarity that we decided to make a film to document everything we see on a daily basis.”

    Kook Paradise premieres at the New York Surf Film Festival on September 19 and 20.

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    Takashi Murakami: Healing Powers

    The Pop Artist Strikes a Different Tone in the Wake of the Fukushima Disaster

    Japan’s explosive master of color Takashi Murakami contemplates the shifting purpose of his work in today’s short from Friend & Colleague. The Tokyo-born artist was interviewed while surrounded by new pieces at his Arhat exhibition at LA’s Blum & Poe gallery, shortly after the international premiere of fantastical epic Jellyfish Eyes, which took place at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in April. Murakami has earned major retrospectives at the Brooklyn Museum, MOCA in Los Angeles and the Château de Versailles, and last year had a solo show at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. His new feature film is a more sentimental and sincere undertaking than his previous work and follows a young boy in Japan mourning the death of his father and readjusting to life while striking up an unlikely companionship with a creature that resembles a flying jellyfish. The ironic undercurrents typical of the artist are noticeably absent, in light of the disasters that have rocked Japan in the last two years, following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. “He is well known for his loud and sometimes shocking work,” says director Alexei Tylevich of Murakami’s apparent about-face. “It was really surprising to hear him talk about unexpected notions like ‘spirituality’ and ‘healing.’” 

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