This exhibition features collages by photographer Peter Beard, incorporating and inspired by some of the best-known photographs from Gordon Parks’ legendary career. Made in 2013, Beard was honored with the Gordon Parks Foundation Award and created these artworks as part of his award presentation. These works of bricolage emerged from the two photographers’ comradeship. Friends and colleagues, Peter Beard and Gordon Parks bonded over their abiding interest in the power of photography to bring public attention to injustice, and to inspire passion for social change.
In the early 1960s, Parks was an editorial magazine photographer for LIFE and Peter Beard worked for VOGUE while he was studying art at Yale University. But their shared respect went deeper, resting on their common interest in using the camera as a tool to address social and environmental problems. Parks’ empathetic picture stories brought wide public attention to the lives of the poor and marginalized, while Beard’s searing photographs of Kenya’s Tsavo wilderness, soon to be published in The End of the Game, told the harrowing story of East Africa’s despoiled ecosystem and the endangerment of its wildlife.
“Gordon was unstoppable,” Beard recalls. “He was an amazing diplomat. At one of the most difficult times in African-American history, he was a soldier… a veritable “Jackie Robinson” of the media world. Three words sum it all up for him: authenticity, atmosphere, and feeling.”
Gordon Parks: Collages by Peter Beard also celebrates the 50th Anniversary edition of Beard’s landmark photo book The End of the Game, published by Taschen. This classic publication documents the overpopulation and starvation of tens of thousands of elephants, rhinos, and hippos in Kenya’s Tsavo lowlands and Uganda parklands in the 1960s and 1970s. “Long taken as a seminal book on wildlife conservation, it is actually an epic visual poem on the subject of loss, especially the ultimate loss of life,” critic David Levi Strauss wrote. As powerful today as when it was first released, The End of the Game provides powerful testimony to the damage done by human intervention in Africa.
In addition to Beard’s collage homages to Parks, this exhibition also includes revealing photographs by Orin Langelle documenting the installation and reception of Beard’s groundbreaking 1977 exhibition The End of the Game at New York’s International Center of Photography.