Posted on March 15, 2010



Hailing from South Africa, David Crookes is a prominent photographer living between his home in London and studio in Cape Town.

Among his world class roster of clients are Hearst’s ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ and Condé Nast Publication’s ‘Tatler’ and ‘Condé Nast Traveller’, with whom he has been collaborating with since 2004.  As contributing photographer to Traveller, he has worked and travelled around the world from Jordan to Greece and Mongolia to Mozambique.

David graduated with distinctions from the University of Cape Town in 1996 and since has collaborated with numerous advertising agencies and has been published by some of the biggest publishing houses in the world.

Q.  What inspires your photography when approaching a subject?

A.  I want to hero people and places and show them positively – this infuses all that we do. I am not a documenter, I put the image through a point of view. I am always experimenting with my technique. I’ll take a range of cameras with me –  from a Hasselblad and digital Leaf back to my well worn Sinar 5×4 – I find different formats and lenses can help read a subject uniquely. For example when we travelled to the historical Ibo Island, in the Quirambas archipelago off Mozambique, we knew the island was full of crumbling facades – working under the dark cloth of a 5×4 camera made visual sense.

Q.  How would you describe your style? And, who are some artists that have influenced you?

A.  I was exposed to the work of the American Abstract Painters such as Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell while studying  Fine Art at  the University of Cape Town. What appealed to me  about their work was that they seemed to find the absolute essence of something. That is what is continually in my mind while working – I look to get rid of unwanted surface noise and find the essence.

Q.  What do you find the most challenging about shooting in countries around the world?

A.  Mare’s milk cheese baked on the roof of a Mongolian tent; goat head stew, stirred with a goat leg; roast marmot served with the fur still on it. These are things you cannot avoid.

We overcome most other challenges with a simple philosophy that has developed through trial and error when on location and that is: “find the rhythm of a country”. Once you have the rhythm images start to appear in front of you like magic because you get to the right places at the right times.  . 

Q.  What was the most bizarre scene you ever shot? 

A.  The portraits of silver miners in Potosi, South America. It wasn’t so much the subject matter as the experience. We walked up the mountain towards the rabbit warren of unofficial mines along cobbled streets. On either side of the streets were small stalls selling soft drinks, bags of coca leaves and sticks of sweating dynamite. The miners chew the coca leaves into a pulp and store it in one cheek to help with the altitude and the dynamite was for obvious reasons.  It is local knowledge that dynamite time is midday, but how were we meant to know this? The mountain did an almighty shudder and minutes later the miners strolled out for lunch. They were covered in a beautiful, fine layer of  silver dust. 

Q.  What is your current project? Where are you travelling to next?  

A.  We have just created an editorial on the Kruger National Park in South Africa for Conde Nast Traveller Italy. It is one of the most rewarding game reserves I’ve ever worked in. Whether you are camping in the original rest-camps or working from the elite private reserves you have fantastic game viewing opportunities as there are no fences between the different areas. You can have a look at them on my website.Unfortunately, I can’t talk about my upcoming trips – they are confidential until they’ve been published. However, I would like to shoot a new campaign for a tourist board, travel back to South America and acquire a new Luxury Travel client.

Q.  What do you hope to achieve in 2010 and how do you feel Pelime might help facilitate this?

A.  2010 is going to be my year of editing. And you are talking to a keen collector – I even brought an iron bed back from Mongolia – so editing is a crucial process. Every country I travel to I select at least one thing that is symbolic of it to me – it may be a bullet shell from Jordan, a piece of rock from Mandela’s homeland or even an old tuna can from the Sinai desert – this year I want to collate and photograph them. 

I am hoping to find a charity to produce work for – I want to show the positive side to the cause, and the success of the work the charity is achieving, rather than the opposite. Maybe Pelime can help connect me with the relevant people.

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