Following a three-day search for missing photographer Peter Beard, the case is being turned over to detectives, according to a spokesman for the East Hampton Police Department.
The 82-year-old Beard, who suffers from dementia, was reported missing Tuesday late in the afternoon, after leaving his Montauk, N.Y., home. His daughter Zara posted on Instagram Friday that local authorities had exhausted all of their resources following a three-day search.
Acknowledging the pandemic and the need to stay at home for the good of everyone, she encouraged healthy and able-bodied people to join the search for her father in a “socially responsible way.”
Photographer, socialite, conservationist, adventurer and reveler — all of the above apply to Beard. He was just a 20-year-old WASP-y Yale University undergrad when, armed with Isak Dinesen’s “Out of Africa,” he arrived in Nairobi for the first time, bought a fourth-hand Land Rover, set out to track wild game and lived on passion fruit and roasted flanks of freshly slaughtered zebra. That was the first trip of what would be many of his personal expeditions and residencies in Africa that led to numerous books of wildlife photography.
In a 1978 interview with WWD, Beard said, “I would like to say I am one of those great missionaries and martyrs that everybody loves…but my concerns are very selfish and rather unattractive, really.”
The middle son of an affluent New York stockbroker, Beard has always lived a big life. His Hemingway-esque tendencies could be seen in big-game hunts. He was known to send letters written in his own blood. In the Seventies, Beard once found a game poacher on his 49-acre property, tied the man up in his own animal snare wires, stuffed a glove in his mouth and left him there. That deed cost Beard a week in an African jail.
Jackie Kennedy and her sister Lee Radziwill were among Beard’s confidantes, as well as Bianca Jagger and Barbara Allen. His second marriage was to Cheryl Tiegs and he has been credited with discovering Iman. He spent the Seventies running with Andy Warhol’s clique.
“I am not a dinner party man. Never was. Just can’t get it together, you know? Don’t even have a necktie or a suit,” Beard told WWD. As for dating Radziwill, “That just meant she had to go out on a lot of picnics. ‘Cause I wasn’t going to those dinner parties.”
Beard has never held his preferred medium in high regard. “Most photographers are idiots. That’s the horrendous truth. It’s a parasite field. Because all you have to do is squeeze your index finger, and you’ve got yourself a profession,” Beard once said.
In 2013, when honored by the Gordon Parks Foundation, Beard told the crowd he had no idea why he was being honored. “I’m being honored for doing what I like to do. But I’ll go along with it.”