Photographer Peter Beard, world-renown for his beautiful and intimate images of Africa and African wildlife, was found dead at age 82 after he went missing from his Montauk, New York, home on April 1.
On Sunday, nearly three weeks after his disappearance, his family confirmed Beard’s death in a statement shared on social media. “We are all heartbroken by the confirmation of our beloved Peter’s death. We want to express our deep gratitude to the East Hampton police and all who aided them in their search, and also to thank the many friends of Peter and our family who have sent messages of love and support during these dark days,” the statement read.
“Peter was an extraordinary man who led an exceptional life. He lived life to the fullest; he squeezed every drop out of every day. He was relentless in his passion for nature, unvarnished and unsentimental but utterly authentic always. He was an intrepid explorer, unfailingly generous, charismatic, and discerning,” the statement continued.
“Peter defined what it means to be open: open to new ideas, new encounters, new people, new ways of living and being. Always insatiably curious, he pursued his passions without restraints and perceived reality through a unique lens. Anyone who spent time in his company was swept up by his enthusiasm and his energy. He was a pioneering contemporary artist who was decades ahead of his time in his efforts to sound the alarm about environmental damage. His visual acuity and elemental understanding of the natural environment was fostered by his long stays in the bush and the ‘wild-deer-ness’ he loved and defended. He died where he lived: in nature. We will miss him every day,” the statement concluded.
The East Hampton Town Police said on Sunday that authorities located “the remains of an elderly male consistent with the physical and clothing description of Mr. Beard” in Camp Hero State Park in Montauk, according to a statement obtained by the New York Daily News. The remains are still awaiting identification.
In the hours after Beard was reported missing, police were concerned Beard could be in immediate need of medical attention due to his battle with dementia — a disease of the brain that affects memory loss and judgment. Dozens of police and firefighters participated in the research, using dogs, drones and thermal imaging equipment, the New York Times reported.
At the time, Beard’s wife, Nejma Beard, did not immediately return PEOPLE’s request for comment. The couple and daughter Zara split their time between Montauk, New York City and Kenya, according to Beard’s website.
For more than half his life, Beard dedicated himself to documenting life in Africa, from its people to its animals, spurred on by a need to shine a lot on the continent.
“The wilderness is gone,” the artist was quoting saying by Vanity Fair in 1996, “and with it much more than we can appreciate or predict. We’ll suffer for it.”
Beard — born in New York in January 1938 — became enamored with nature during trips to Tuxedo Park with his grandmother, who gave him his first camera, a biography on his website reads. At age 17, Beard traveled to Africa to work on a film documenting rhinos with Quentin Keynes, the great-grandson of Charles Darwin.
Though he enrolled in Yale to study medicine, he quickly switched his concentration to art, a decision that would eventually lead him back to Africa.
Returning to the continent would be life-changing, and after receiving a special provision to live on a ranch and document Africa’s people and wilderness, he would publish The End of the Game in 1965. Twelve years later, he would republish the book to include photographs documenting the deaths of thousands of elephants and rhinos from starvation and stress Kenya’s Tsavo National Park.
Beard’s adventures on the continent also led him to a chance encounter with a young woman on the streets of Nairobi, Kenya. Beard asked and paid to take her picture, and the woman, Zara Mohamed Abdulmajid — better known today as Iman — would go on to become one of the world’s most famous supermodels.
Beard opened his first exhibition in 1975 at the Blum Helman Gallery in New York, which was followed by a one-man exhibition in 1977 at the International Center of Photography.
“I think of them like an accumulation of petty and futile memories put down on paper, collaged, photographed, and worked on,” Beard told the New York Times of his work in 1997.
His most recent display was at the Guild Hall Museum in East Hampton, New York, in 2016, according to his website.
During his career, Beard befriended many renowned celebrities of their time, including Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon, Salvador Dali, Richard Lindner, Terry Southern and Truman Capote.
Originally Published on Yahoo Entertainment