In a life cut short, Pierre Crocquet did not settle for comfortable white collar servitude. Instead, he embarked on a path that would leave an enduring legacy.
Born in 1971 in Cape Town, Pierre grew up in Klerksdorp, a mining town to the west of Johannesburg. He dutifully followed his parent’s wishes and graduated from the University of Cape Town with a financial degree and became a Chartered Accountant.
He left South Africa for London in 1996 to take up a position at what was then Chase Manhattan merchant bank. Initially Pierre thought it would be a dream job but in a letter home he wrote, “The money paid here is obscenely high but I hate the work. I cannot see that what I am producing is meaningful and I feel I am leaving nothing worthwhile behind.”
He abandoned banking and went to study photography at the London College of Printing. Pierre yearned for home and just after the millennium he returned to South Africa and his work then focused on life in South Africa and on the African continent. Two books, Us (2002) and On Africa Time (2003) were published.
In early 2002 Pierre discovered South African jazz and he spent the next several years photographing the artists producing the sounds he loved. The work was noticed by the Standard Bank Art Gallery which bought 25 large prints and held an exhibition, Sound Check, in 2005. A book with the same name, sponsored by the bank, was also published that year.
Pierre spent a lot of time in Karatara from 2005 to 2007. Karatara is a tiny settlement on the edge of the Knysna Forest. Originally established to accommodate forestry workers, the population has dwindled as the industry has faded. Those who remain seem somehow lost in time, part of a forgotten era. Residents were initially wary and suspicious, and it took a while before they agreed to be photographed. His portraits from that time are compassionate, empathetic and compelling. The Karatara work was exhibited in the US, Europe and locally to much acclaim and a book containing the images, Enter/Exit, was published.
In 2009 Pierre began working on what would be his final body of work, the award winning Pinky Promise. The work photographically documented the personal stories of three pedophiles and five victims of childhood sexual abuse.
The book Pinky Promise, which accompanied an exhibition of the same name held at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, was published in 2011. The exhibition was critically acclaimed and the book was short listed for the Alan Paton award, but the years of working on such an intense project left Pierre creatively burned out.
In November 2012 he began a six month isolated retreat at a remote Buddhist centre. He was meditating for 14 hours a day, eating very sparsely and in the final months had opted to remain silent. Two weeks before the end of the retreat Pierre began to exhibit signs of mental distress and severe paranoia.
During the night of May 1 2013 he left the retreat, wearing just a pair of shorts, and made his way into the nearby town of Groot Merico. He was walking along the highway when he was killed in a hit and run at 2am on May 2nd at the age of 42.