For Nejma and Zara Beard

This photograph was taken 19 June 2016 from the cliffs at Peter Beard’s Montauk, NY home. Photo: Orin Langelle

20 April 2020 – This morning The New York Times reported that photographer and artist Peter Beard’s body was found in Camp Hero State Park near his home in Montauk, NY. He was 82. He had been missing for 19 days. Peter had a huge impact on my life. I created this post in Peter’s memory and to pay respect to Peter’s wife Nejma and daughter Zara.

April 19, 2020, An excerpt from the statement on behalf of Peter Beard’s family:

Peter was an extraordinary man who led an exceptional life. He lived life to the fullest; he squeezed every drop out of every day. He was relentless in his passion for nature, unvarnished and unsentimental but utterly authentic always. He was an intrepid explorer, unfailingly generous, charismatic, and discerning. Peter defined what it means to be open: open to new ideas, new encounters, new people, new ways of living and being. Always insatiably curious, he pursued his passions without restraints and perceived reality through a unique lens. Anyone who spent time in his company was swept up by his enthusiasm and his energy. He was a pioneering contemporary artist who was decades ahead of his time in his efforts to sound the alarm about environmental damage. His visual acuity and elemental understanding of the natural environment was fostered by his long stays in the bush and the “wild-deer-ness” he loved and defended. He died where he lived: in nature.”

Peter Beard’s signature “autograph” in Zara’s Tales to Anne Petermann and me.

The last time I saw Peter was at his home in Montauk during the summer of 2016. My wife, Anne Petermann, and I were invited by Peter’s wife, Nejma, to spend some time with Peter around the occasion of his retrospective exhibit at the Guild Hall Museum in East Hampton, NY.

Anne and I had a great time in Montauk with Peter and his family. We all drank wine, shared stories and, always creating, Peter decorated and signed his book Zara’s Tales, for us. The book was a tribute to his daughter.

The last time I spoke to Peter prior to our trip to Montauk was in Manhattan in January 1978 most likely at his 40th birthday party at Studio 54.

The first time I met Peter was in 1977 when Peter had his first one-person show at Manhattan’s International Center of Photography, The End of the Game – The Last Word from Paradise. Over four months I photographed Beard and the people, many celebrities, that were part of Beard’s life prior to and during the exhibit’s installation and the subsequent opening.

Those photographs are in the Peter Beard Studio files and have illustrated several books and articles.

In 2015, on the 50th anniversary of Beard’s book, The End of the Game – The Last Word from Paradise, with the support of Nejma Beard and the Peter Beard Studio, the ¡Buen Vivir! Gallery for Contemporary Art in Buffalo, NY presented my work Peter Beard’s The End of the Game – The Last Word from Paradise, Revisited.

To me Peter was not only a great documentary photographer and artist, but also an ecologist who understood the connections of life and death. I learned much from Peter’s photography and ecological perspectives that have helped shaped my work in photography and how I have come to understand Earth with a greater depth. For this I will always be grateful. Safe and wild journey’s Peter. – Orin Langelle

The following link goes to photographs from the exhibit: