Anyone else experiencing some strong feelings of wanderlust these days? While slowing down at home has had its silver linings, we’re missing all the time we’d normally spend on the road (and counting ourselves lucky that we stocked up on vintage finds before travel shut down). But the one thing that’s helped us keep the restlessness at bay? Escaping into our collection of books — especially the masterpiece that is Peter Beard. For those who aren’t familiar, the late Peter Beard was a larger-than-life legend of the photography world, as well as an almost mythic figure in the world at large. Part artist, part adventurer, the NYC native spent a large chunk of his life in Kenya, where he purchased fifty acres in the 1960s with a plan to document the land’s flora and fauna.
Instead, he found himself as a witness to the country’s population boom — an event that strained the wildlife and ecosystem, forever reshaping the region. Beard focused his lens on every aspect of this unique moment in history, capturing everything from death-defying shots of animals and gorgeous portraits of local peoples to tragic snaps of starving elephants and wastelands of eaten trees. A lifelong journal keeper, his natural next step was to incorporate these photographs into his diaries. There, they became canvases, which he overlaid with newspaper clippings, telegraphs, drawings, abstract paintings and his own meticulously handwritten thoughts, as well as all manner of found objects and even the occasional smear of his own blood. The result was a genre-bending and chaotic collection of collages that are shocking, beautiful and heart-rending all at once.
The first complete compilation of these captivating journals, we just had to add this large-format coffee table book to our collection this past summer — and it’s been a favorite of ours ever since. Flipping through is almost like wandering through a retrospective exhibit on Beard and his work (which helps fill the museum visit void in our lives — another thing we’ve been missing these days). Grab a copy for yourself and do a little armchair traveling through the eyes of this art world icon. It just might hold you over until your own adventures are back on.