Pinky Promise is a powerful and thought-provoking new book by photographer Pierre Crocquet about childhood sexual abuse and healing. The book, which accompanies an exhibition of the same name, enters difficult and risky terrain, and breaks new ground by including the stories of victims and perpetrators of child sexual abuse. Three intense years of photography and frank interviews with the participants in the project—five victims and three perpetrators—are distilled into seven extraordinary stories of abuse, survival, and healing. Pinky Promise presents these stories with sensitivity, a robust stance on sexual offences, and a desire to understand a social ill that has become alarmingly prevalent in our society.
Pinky Promise comprises Crocquet’s sensitive black and white photographic portraits of victims and perpetrators, as well as ephemera from the lives of all of the subjects—photographs from family albums, letters, drawings made in therapy, diary entries, affidavits, and other documents that the participants shared with the photographer.
Crocquet consulted many people in the course of this project, seeking legal and ethical advice at every turn, and consulting several professionals who have worked for many years with victims and offenders. He has positioned himself in relation to this complex narrative of abuse and recovery by including elements from his own notes and journal entries made while he was working on the project. The result is a subtle and layered visual and textual documentation of a social problem that is reaching epidemic proportions.
Pierre Crocquet was born in 1971 in Cape Town, and grew up in Klerksdorp, a conservative farming and mining town west of Johannesburg. He was a student at the University of Cape Town and then went to work in London where he studied photography at the London College of Printing. Crocquet returned home in 2001, and his early photographic work focused on life in South Africa and on the African continent. By his third book, Enter Exit (Hatje Cantz, 2007), his images had become concerned with the existential rather than the physical being and environment of his subjects. Although Crocquet’s subjects are South African, his images are not bound by geography. They explore universal human experiences, but at the same time do not lose sight of the particularities of individual lives and contexts.