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Police scaling back search for acclaimed photographer Peter Beard

Photographer Peter Beard at a concert at Montauk

Photographer Peter Beard at a concert at Montauk Point in 2018. The search for Beard has utilized quads, K-9 units, helicopters and drones, but has not found any clues to his whereabouts, police said. Credit: John Roca

The search for iconic East End photographer, artist and diarist Peter Beard entered its fourth day Friday, with police saying the effort would be scaled back.

The 82-year-old Beard, who suffers from dementia, went missing near his home in Montauk Tuesday afternoon, East Hampton Town Police said.

East Hampton Police Capt. Christopher Anderson said that a group of from 50 to 75 searchers from multiple police agencies and fire departments scoured Montauk Wednesday and again Thursday looking for Beard. They utilized quads, K-9 units, helicopters and drones, but ultimately failed to find any clues to his whereabouts.

Anderson said that Friday investigators would focus on overlaying GPS coordinates of search areas already completed against maps of the area, to see what areas need to be revisited.

Among the primary areas that have been searched is the sprawling Thunderbolt Ranch, which according to biographical information on his website, Peter Beard Studio, Beard purchased in 1973.

"The harsh reality of this particular search and situation is that this property is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean," Anderson said Friday, adding: "Basically, his property goes out to a sheer cliff and bluff, and that’s something that we also need to consider."

The 5-foot-10, 176-pound Beard was reported missing Tuesday afternoon by his wife, Nejma Khanum, who told police he was wearing a blue fleece pullover, black jogging pants and blue sneakers on a walk outside. Anderson said it was not uncommon for Beard to wander off in recent years, and he was often walked back home by neighbors.

Born Jan. 22, 1938, in New York City and raised in Manhattan, Alabama and Islip, Beard befriended and collaborated with a noted gallery of artists and writers over decades of work, including Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon, Salvador Dali, Richard Linder, Terry Southern and Truman Capote. He photographed the Rolling Stones for Rolling Stone magazine on their famed “Exile on Main Street” tour and worked on storied book projects with editor and former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. He also authored and photographed the historic "The End of the Game," first published in 1965, about the destruction of African wildlife.

Beard first explored Africa at age 17 with Quentin Keynes, the great-grandson of Charles Darwin. In the 1960s, Beard received a special dispensation from then-Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta to purchase a tract he called Hog Ranch with the mandate, the Beard Studio website said, “that he film, photograph, write, and document the local flora, fauna, and peoples.”

“The deeper the white man went into Africa, the faster the life flowed out of it, off the plains and out of the bush . . . vanishing in acres of trophies and hides and carcasses,” Beard said as part of the limited 50th anniversary edition of "The End of the Game" in 2015. A synopsis of the work read: “The corpses were laid bare; the facts carefully recorded, sometimes in type and often by hand. Beard uses his photographs as a canvas onto which he superimposes multilayered contact sheets, ephemera, found objects, newspaper clippings that are elaborately embellished with meticulous handwriting, old-master inspired drawings, and often swaths of animal blood used as paint.”

In addition to "The End of the Game," Beard’s obsession with Africa and the ravaging of its wildlife in the modern world led him to work on many film and book projects, including "Longing for Darkness: Kamante's Tales from Out of Africa" (1975), "Eyelids of Morning: The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men" (1973) and "Zara's Tales: Perilous Escapades in Equatorial Africa" (2004). The last was a book of tales by Beard to his daughter with Khanum.

In 1996, Beard survived being gored by an elephant.

Beard also discovered and photographed a then-unknown Iman in Nairobi in 1975, and introduced her to Wilhelmina Models in New York. He was once married to supermodel Cheryl Tiegs and is the great-grandson of James Jerome Hill, arts patron and founder of the Great Northern Railway. Astronomer Carl Sagan selected a Beard photograph to be included in the 1977 NASA Voyager 2 space probe mission to interstellar space, which contained sounds and images from Earth for possible contact with alien life elsewhere in the universe.

In October 2017 his silver gelatin print collage of orphaned cheetah cubs near Nyeri, Kenya, sold for $672,500.

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