Wild: The Life of Peter Beard: Photographer, Adventurer, Lover

St. Martin’s. Oct. 2022. 352p. ISBN 9781250274991. $35. FINE ARTS
Journalist Boynton (The Last Days in Cloud Cuckooland) explores the life of photographer Peter Beard. Born into wealth and white privilege, educated at Yale, Beard used his connections and charisma to conjure opportunities for himself, one of which was traveling to Africa in 1960. Inspired by Karen Blixen’s tales of colonial Kenya in Out of Africa, Beard spent time on safari taking photographs, which culminated in his 1965 monograph, End of the Game. He accepted assignments to photograph models in the African bush for glossies such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Beard was characterized by a compulsive recklessness, and he gives the impression that he had a colossal sense of entitlement. According to Boynton, he never picked up a tab and frequently bartered his work to pay off bar bills. Beard’s artistic process is never truly illuminated, and the tales of his endless appetite for drugs, booze, bedding young models, and nightclubbing grow tiresome, especially as he enters his dotage. Beard’s wife isn’t portrayed in a favorable light either.
VERDICT Beard’s lifetime of excess and negligence toward the maintenance of his body of work complicates his artistic legacy, which is made clear in this biography. Still, many readers will be intrigued.
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