At first glance, it looks like a drawing lifted from the pages of a children’s book – four men racing a rhino through the arid Kenyan desert; the cumbrous creature kicking up dust clouds in its wake.
Upon closer inspection, however, Peter Beard’s typically transformative snap gradually reveals itself to us. The four men, imagined to be straddling the beast, are in fact standing aboard a jeep, the bulk of which is hidden behind the rhino’s hulking form.
Beard’s perspective, the way in which he angles the unblinking eye of his camera, simultaneously reveals the brutal reality of the natural world and the myths we spin in order to temper that reality.
Man’s relentless quest for dominion, his folly, may eventually cost us these fancies, Beard appears to be suggesting.
A prolific diarist, Beard has annotated the image in blood and ink, including the William Faulkner quote: “The ruined wood we used to know won’t cry for retribution – the men who have destroyed it will accomplish its revenge.”
The market for Peter Beard’s work has seen a steady increase since 2009. Duly, this remarkable, utterly unique photo-collage auctioned for £103,857 in London yesterday (May 15). The work achieved an impressive 73.1% increase on its $60,000 presale estimate.
Describing his work in an interview with the New York Times earlier this year, Beard’s wife, Nejma, observed: “This isn’t someone running around the garden with a butterfly net.”