Born in 1938 in New York City and raised in New York City, Alabama, and Islip, Long Island, Peter Beard began keeping diaries as a young boy and making photographs, as an extension of the diaries, at the age of twelve. In 1957 he entered Yale University with the intention of pursuing pre-med studies, only to switch his major to art history. His mentors at Yale included Josef Albers, Richard Lindner and Vincent Scully.
Inspired by earlier trips to Africa in both 1955 and 1960, Beard traveled to Kenya upon graduation. Working at Tsavo National Park, he photographed and documented the demise of 35,000 elephants and other wildlife, later to become the subject of his first book, “The End of the Game.” It was also during this time that he acquired Hog Ranch, a property near the Ngong Hills adjacent to the coffee farm owned by Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen), which would become his lifelong home-base in East Africa.