Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Peter Beard

Last night I was given a belated (but so totally worth the wait) Christmas gift. I had no idea what it could possibly be, but when I saw the name "Taschen" I knew it would be good.

It was a boxed set, encased in a navy blue fabric slipcover, engraved with a gold silhouette of an elephant and above that, "Peter Beard". I wasn't familiar with his work but from the first page I could see it was right up my alley...

Peter Beard is a photographer from New York City. He was born in 1938, and attended Yale. By the time he graduated, he was obsessed with Africa, and in his words, "escaped to" the dark continent. He spent decades in Kenya, documenting extreme conditions, from the population explosion to the tragic starvation of tens of thousands of elephants. He also worked as a Vogue photographer, taking legendary model Veruschka to Africa and bringing back future supermodel Iman. He toured with the Rolling Stones, made diaries with Andy Warhol, books with Jackie Kennedy-Onassis, embarked on more tours with Truman Capote, was Salvador Dali's living canvas, and on and on.

His book is a reissue, following the sell-out success of the first publication in 2006. The first volume is 500 pages of images, nearly 300 of them his collages. He kept diaries since childhood, and the volume is filled with them. The second volume includes a photo index, personal photos and interviews, and early work. Essentially a retrospective in book form, this is more than just an art book, it's a detailed history of fashion photography, African culture, and American popular culture.

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