I was asked to share a few words about Pierre Crocquet (1971 – 2013) at the opening of his exhibition at the Barrydale Analogue Photography Festival in December 2021. This is what I shared.
 
When the Photographers Gallery ZA opened in September 2001, it was located at 87 Kloof Street in Gardens, Cape Town. The gallery was on a mezzanine level right at the back of Klooftique, a bespoke furniture company. It was an awkward little space with too many windows, but it worked. Jurgen Schadeberg, Guy Tillim, Grada Djeri, Johan Wilke and Ronnie Levitan were all part of the launch exhibition. By that December however, a series of photographs by a completely unknown photographer by the name of Pierre Crocquet de Rosemond were the best-sellers.
 
I cannot recall how we met, or who introduced us. I do remember how Pierre used to jog up the flight of stairs leading to the gallery, always dressed in knee-length shorts and trainers. He always arrived with a huge smile. He was happy to be back in Cape Town, and it showed. He had been in London for many years, where, as a chartered accountant he worked in the banking sector. Disillusioned with that world and looking for a change, he enrolled in a photography course. He returned to South Africa to launch his new career.
 
South Africa had no shortage of talented photographers and Pierre knew that. He also knew that if he wanted to break into the industry fast, he needed a different approach, other than just doing exhibitions. He settled on publishing. His first book US (as in we and not the United States) was released in 2002, followed by On Africa Time in 2003. Very few South African photographers get to publish a single book in their lifetime; Pierre published two photography books in less than two years. Hatje Cantz published his fourth book, Enter Exit in 2007 in conjunction with the exhibition Nouvelles Recontres Africaines de la Photographie de Bamako, Mali. Pierre’s final publication Pinky Promise was shortlisted for the Alan Paton Award.
 
In the foreword of Enter Exit Rick Wester writes that Pierre’s portraits are ‘situational documents’ or ‘environmental tableaus’. I cannot agree more, except to add that Pierre’s practice from the start, was to react to situations that he found intriguing. His first body of work were all short stories in which the narrative unfolded across four photographs, and framed as one work. One of these sets is that of the old man and the Zimmer frame. Pierre never photographed anyone without their permission nor without listening to their stories. In this story the man had told Pierre of how he went and saw a doctor about the trouble with his legs and with walking. He was prescribed a Zimmer frame, but the doctor never showed his patient how to use the frame as a walking aid. Pierre saw the old man walking along the road carrying the frame on his shoulder. He did a whole series of these humorous short stories on road-trips he made throughout the country. These photo-stories also revealed much about Pierre himself, about what he saw, about his nature, and his extremely positive outlook on life.
 
Our interactions were intense, but short-lived. By the end of summer in 2002 Pierre had moved to Johannesburg. We kept in contact and whenever he was in Cape Town, he popped in for a visit. In May 2007 I hosted Love Bytes and Soccer, a three-person exhibition of photographs by Pierre, Dale Yudelman (Reality Bytes series) and Pieter Badenhorst (Soccer versus Rugby series). Each of them showed a small sample of images, Pierre’s photographs were from a project then titled Love First. Our last collaboration was in May 2008 when I hosted Enter Exit. It is such a curious title for this body of work because that was exactly what Pierre did. He entered a small community of people, gained their trust, took his photographs and left. Back in 2001, while on his road-trips, Pierre documented his stories as they unfolded from a distance, and he gathered his information on the spot. The collection of works that make up Enter Exit reveal a departure in his style. The camera is placed right in front of the individual that is being photographed. There is no distance (nor discomfort)) between the photographer, and his sitters. I think this change in method is the sign of growth and confidence in his practice. Pierre had reached the ability to successfully tell a long story in a single frame.
 
Pierre had established himself and became an admired and successful photographer within a short space of time. I was not surprised, he was driven, dedicated and always ready for the next project. At the time of his tragic death in May 2013, the (photography) world was his oyster. He had a dream and he had made it work. I want to conclude by congratulating Pierre’s sister, Jeannine du Venage on the sterling job she has done with his archive, and for keeping his legacy alive and part of the present. We are all deeply indebted to her. I am adding a link to Pierre’s website as well as the Facebook page that Jeannine is managing.  
(11 December 2021, Barrydale)
Untitled photograph by Pierre Crocquet (2001). Courtesy of Pierre Crocquet Estate.