Peter Beard’s “Wild Life” Explained in New Video

Montauk artist and photographer Peter Beard is creeping back into the limelight.

Though he’s best known for his iconic, often blood splattered photographs of Africa, elephants and beautiful models, Beard’s new work—recently displayed by New York City’s Westwood Gallery at Art Southampton—features a much more urban milieu. Most prominent among them was a larger photo of a topless model posed on a Manhattan street at night, the word “MANHOLECOVER” stenciled boldly in white spray paint across the bottom.

The 75-year-old artist is no stranger to altering photos with paint, ink, blood and collage, but Beard’s use of stark white spray paint, stenciling and the urban environ feels quite different than his usual work, both visually and emotionally. Though they lack some of the nuance and gravitas of his bloody, scrawled-on pictures of Kenya and Montauk, these new photographs are a refreshing departure from Beard’s bread-and-butter, Africa-based work.

Peter Beard at Westwood Gallery, Art Southampton

Peter Beard at Westwood Gallery, Art Southampton, Photo: Oliver Peterson

Beard is clearly stepping up off his laurels and trying new things, which can only be positive for a talent of his magnitude.

Despite this recent exploration of new ideas and media, the artist gives no indication that he’ll stop producing the work that made him internationally famous. Just yesterday, August 6, a five-minute video featuring Beard discussing his life and work was featured on Nowness.com.

Directed by Derek Peck, Peter Beard: A Wild Life – The Artist and Photographer On His Lifelong Dedication to the Natural World, the intimate and artful film depicts Beard working on his photography collage at his home atop the Montauk bluffs while discussing his art and efforts to spotlight man’s destruction of nature.

“…the only thing that can appreciate all this beauty comes on the scene and, sure enough, destroys what only he can appreciate,” Beard says, ruminating on the tragedy of humankind and nature in the film, which vacillates between talk of art and our doomed planet.

“I like things that don’t look like they’re in control,” Beard explains in another poignant moment, describing the benefits of accidents in his work. “There are so many things you can photograph…,” he says. “I’ve always thought it was magic, I mean, photos can be magic if you have a little accident involved.”

Indeed, photos can be magic, especially when Beard is behind the camera.

To learn more about Peter Beard, watch Peck’s short film below and visit peterbeard.com.

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