Gerben & Marc (otherwise known as Gerban Grotenhuis and Guldor Photography) have taken friendship, photography, and a curious fascination with joint bathrooms, and made a hilarious, playful personal project based around – you guessed it – their toilet.
We recently caught up with the Dutch duo and got a little insight on what it is like pulling an inventive, yet simple concept out of their … hat.
Behind the Toilet Diaries
You know… after a night of heavy drinking you wake up in the toilet and realize you still need to do the dishes.
– Marc about the start of the Toilet Diaries
What got you started in photography?
GG: As a kid I walked on the carnival of Harreveld; a small town near where I grew up, and as I passed the gamble vending machines I heard something falling. I checked and in there lay a simple analog camera. (actually don’t know the type anymore, I think the thing is somewhere around living in a box in my parents shed). After this I started photographing our cats and friends doing karate and ninja poses.
MM: It started as a kid when my parents give me a video camera because I wanted to be the next Steven Spielberg. Me and my friends made ridiculous movies about everything from the computer game commandos to horror. At the Art Academie I found my real passion in Photography.
Where did the idea for Toilet Diaries come from?
We were living in our photo studio located in an old bank, which had the famous toilet rooms. After a few Friday night drinks we realized we still needed to do the dishes, and thought it would be funny to do it on the toilet. After that, the ideas just kept on rolling.
How has the collaboration impacted your work?
Marc is kind of a perfectionist, while Gerben likes to work fast. We both learned to take the middle road. Gerben without losing eye for detail, while Marc became more efficient with the time he is given.
How would you describe your style?
MM: Metalhead! But in Photography my own style is hard to tell. It fluctuates but I always have a passion for fashion, models and subcultures. I love playing with light and a mystical feel. I always use mood boards and concepts for my shoots.
GG: I love playing with challenging angles, a lot of (un)sharpness, prominent colours or glows. Most of the time I love ‘fresh’ exposures with white really being white, but mainly I’m just trying to give commercial stuff some balls.
What did you do for creative inspiration when preparing a new piece/project?
Being “roomies” in our photo studio located in an old bank definitely gets on your nerves, in a good way too. Inspiration was just flowing. We were constantly pulling off crazy stuff with each other. Not in the city. It was a Christian town where nothing happened, completely boring. So we just stayed in, working and having fun, no limits.
What was your favorite subject to shoot? Why?
MM: The zombie shoot, because after having a lot of fun being dressed up as a blood-covered killer we had to clean for hours and hours until morning, because of all the blood, mud and other crazy crap we used.
GG: A lot of cool and funny stuff happened during the shoots, but I think my favorite is P-day. All the stuff used in the picture is for real old WW2 stuff, we were able to borrow from a friend who knows a guy who knows a guy, who knows a guy (you know). We walked into our photo studio in the old bank and the friend was actually like:
this is the first time I’m walking into a bank with hand grenades.
(note for government/police: the guns and hand grenades were all already deactivated and are all given back to the rightful owners; so no need for breaking our front door)
I really liked setting the atmosphere and making a mess. Filling the rooms with sand and smoke playing with the strange flash angles and colour gels to get the right atmosphere faking an explosion.
Where are you currently based?
A small apartment in the city of Utrecht, Netherlands that’s ready to be demolished somewhere in the future (and where there is sadly just one toilet).
If you could do anything as a project – what would it be?
It would be awesome to go on a bus tour, while working on all kinds of projects and visiting festivals, abandoned villages, hippie communities, and rock bands.
There was a time when we both wanted to become Rockstars, we even played in a metalband together. But some things don’t last and we became photographers; and we’re glad we did. Being a rockstar means you gotta play the same songs every night.
We have way more creative freedom and Rockstars might be surrounded by groupies, but we have models.
What is your favorite camera and equipment?
Marc is into Canon, Gerben into Nikon, an ongoing battle ;)
Did you study photography/video/art? If so, where?
MM: I started with a Film curse for a year at a private school in Amsterdam, then got to the Art Academy of Rotterdam on my way to become a film maker, but then got distracted by everything creative from Burning Metal to VJ performance and Clay-motion. After some time working my way up to be a film maker. But then I really found my passion in (fashion) photography.
GG: Yeah, I did a 4year thing in Den Bosch, Netherlands called AV-Production, which was about photo film and animation. I did film the first year, but found out it was really just technical. I decided to switch to photography, where they were really learning about shooting cool images.
What advice would you give aspiring artists?
MM: Go study something else and be useful for me, like a set builder. If you still want to be an artist remember, in the beginning it’s hard to make a living, it takes a lot of persistence and passion to keep your head out of the water. In the end, give it 2 or 3 years of terror, you will get where you want to be if you stick to it long enough. Try to be visible and occupy yourself with free work if you do not have work for a client that day.
GG: Screw it, just do it.
What is new on the horizon?
The calendar just finished; so now the whole series combined in a Coffee table/toilet book with backstage photos, stories and links to videos.
In a team we are also starting a new project which is surrealistic portraits of creative people around us. We are also starting to plan that bus tour talked about earlier.
If you are interested, the calender is online now and you can order it at their web shop: toiletdiaries.bigcartel.com
Just goes to show how you can take a simple idea and let it run wild.
Until Next Time . . .
Stay Inspired ~ Jules
CREDITS: Photographs by Gerben Grotenhuis and Marc Guldor have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.