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In a life cut short, Pierre Crocquet did not settle for comfortable white collar servitude. Instead, he embarked on a path that will leave an enduring legacy.
Born in 1971 in Cape Town, Crocquet grew up in Klerksdorp, a mining town to the west of Johannesburg. He dutifully followed his family’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 Crocquet 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 and what the banks are doing. I cannot see that what I am producing is meaningful and I feel I am leaving no worthwhile legacy behind.”
He abandoned banking and went to study photography at the London College of Printing. Crocquet 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 Crocquet discovered South African jazz and he spent the next seven years photographing the artists producing the sounds he loved. Crocquet frequented concerts from Moretele Park to the Noth Sea Jazz Festival and captured timeless moments of musicians and singers - some who were at the height of their fame, others, youngsters just starting out.
His work was noticed and the Standard Bank Art Gallery 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.
In 2009 Crocquet 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.
Crocquet immersed himself in the murky territory of child sex offenders for three years and his photographing of jazz performers took a back seat. He elaborated on his move from the world of spot lights and brass instruments to the shadowy world of pedophiles saying, “I involve myself in life and capture it via my lens at the same time. I am drawn to the darker sides of humanity, maybe because I see the lighter side of life so brightly.”
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 Crocquet 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 Crocquet 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.
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