"I photographed Mark for the upcoming publication of In Good Company II. However, due to Mark's passing, it was important to honour him by releasing some of the photographs to the public now," says famed photographer Marc-Gregory.
The beloved radio and TV presenter died on Sunday after battling stage four lung cancer. He was 53.
Tributes have continuously poured in for Pilgrim, remembering him for his brave fight against cancer, his immeasurable contribution to radio in South Africa, and for loving his family unconditionally.
After the success of his first celebrity portrait book, In Good Company – showcasing 32 public figures who have, according to the photographer, achieved greatness – Marc-Gregory had been working on a second edition when Pilgrim announced his cancer diagnosis in February 2022.
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"Mark's cancer diagnosis was shared on social media in March 2022, which prompted me to contact him," Marc-Gregory tells News24. "I had grown up listening to him on the radio, and we had previously worked together."
Marc-Gregory adds that "the news was undoubtedly devastating for Mark," making him feel less optimistic that the radio presenter would want "to be celebrated artistically". However, Pilgrim was invited to feature in the In Good Company II book, initially scheduled for publication in 2024, and he accepted.
Sharing why Pilgrim agreed to pose, Marc-Gregory says, "He had previously seen the In Good Company art exhibition at Sandton City (2021) and felt a strong connection to the style of artwork, especially since all proceeds from the book would support the Reach For A Dream Foundation."
On the day of the shoot, Marc-Gregory and Pilgrim brainstormed different ideas that they believed would capture his personality best.
"My goal was to capture all aspects of Mark's identity: the human being, the DJ, and the father," Marc-Gregory explains.
In one of the photographs, the media personality sits on a couch next to an emperor penguin.
The image's caption reads: "Mark identified with the penguin in that it represents closeness, family and dreams. Emperor Penguins adapt to living in harsh Antarctic conditions and have the ability to survive without food for several months during the winter. Mark recognised that he was someone who never gave up when faced with adversity."
Marc-Gregory adds that "emperor penguins are known for their dedicated parenting behaviour, which resonated with Mark as a father to two daughters, Tayla-Jean and Alyssa, whose names were tattooed on his arms".
These sentiments are echoed in Gregory's experience working with Pilgrim.
"Mark exuded positivity and optimism, confidently stating, 'I'm already healed'," the photography author says. "He refused to entertain any other reality except the one in which he was completely healed."
"During the photo shoot," Gregory continues, "Mark discussed the importance of nutrition, exercise, and taking care of our bodies, which inspired the resulting black and white photograph."
As for why he has decided to share the portraits of Pilgrim now, Marc-Gregory says, "The vision was to create a tribute that would be befitting of a true South African icon."
SEE MARK PILGRIM'S STUNNING PORTRAITS HERE:
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