Interview: RUDGR on his book 'This is my Church'

Posted at August 19th, 2015 | by Supreet.cheema | in

If you are not new to the world of dance music, then you must have come across the name of legendary photographer RUDGR. Rutger Geerling aka RUDGR has been capturing the essence of dance music around the world in pictures for over 20 years now. Recently, he announced  the release date of his brand new 320 page coffee table book ‘This is my Church‘ which showcases the best photographs of his career and includes stories and interviews of some of the biggest dance music artists including Hardwell, David Guetta, Martin Garrix, Tiesto, Carl Cox and more. Check out Grapevine Online’s exclusive interview with this iconic photographer.


S: We are a great fan of your work. To people who don’t know much about you, how would you introduce yourself
RUDGR: Thank you very much for the kind words. My name is Rutger, probably better known under my artist name “Rudgr”. I’m a 44 year old from Rotterdam, the Netherlands and I’ve been shooting dance music parties and festivals since late 1995. I would say I’m mostly know for sets of photos from Ultra Music Festival and Tomorrowland and I try capturing the scene in photos that tell a story.


S: You have been capturing dance music scene for two decades now. How do you think has the music scene evolved? Which was the first ever concert as a photographer?
RUDGR: I don’t remember the exact gig that I photographed first, I know it was a hardcore dance music party and I felt very much out of my comfort zone (that being mostly extreme sports photography in those days). Even though I’ve always loved electronic music, the harder styles took me a while to get used to but the atmosphere at those parties really made me fall in love with it. I do recall being on stage for the very first time that night, capturing my first DJ images – really not knowing what I was doing. It’s amazing how things are now twenty years later, so much more confident and being labelled an example by so many aspiring photographers. And in a same way the scene has also evolved into this much more professional force. Of course there’s always people complaining about the good old days and things being credible but in my opinion things are really good these days, there’s so much to choose from, music wise at the bigger events while there’s also still a thriving underground scene. There’s something to pick for everyone.


S: Your 320-page coffee table book ‘This is my Church’ is all set to be released in October. Tell us what inspired you. Also, how did you come up with this name?
RUDGR: Well, 20 years is a long time in this industry. When I began I was shooting slide film – maybe two rolls of 36 pictures per night – for the magazine that I started out for. These were the days that Armin and Tiësto were still completely unknown! For some reason two friends of mine, one a publisher, one a writer and I came up with the idea at the exact same time. It was one of those “now or never” situations and I’m gald we’ve pulled through. It’s been well over a year in the making now.


The title was a major headache, we had a whole bunch of working titles – my favorite one being “unicorns in the viewfinder” based on an interview I’d done a few months prior. Then all of a sudden the editor dropped “This is my Church” in the Whatsapp group we have for the book and we all fell in love. The designer immediately picked Hardwell’s photo and the case was settled within seconds. Sometimes things just fit perfectly.


S: Which was the most memorable music event you ever shot in your career and why?
RUDGR: I’ve been asked this many times and my answer is still the same: Distant Heat Festival in the Wadi Rum desert (UNESCO World Heritage) in Jordan. Not only is this one of my favorite countries but having a party in the middle of the desert where once Lawrence of Arabia once wandered is just pure magic. It’s locally know as “The Valley of the Moon” and that should tell you enough.


S: You came down to India to cover Sunburn. Tell us about you experience here.
RUDGR: It was funny, 2014 was a massive year for me – breakthroughs on all sides and I’d shot so many new things and places I couldn’t believe it could get any better. My friend Drew (aka Rukes) told me it would be hectic but I never thought it was going to be that crazy! The crowd literally blew me away and the place is incredibly beautiful. I remember a big group in the crowd shouting my name for photos and all in all it was such an intense three days. India sure knows how to party! On top of that I think it’s one of the nicest locations I’ve ever seen for a dance party, the sunsets are perfect which gives the place such a unique atmosphere. I really can’t wait to be back there because for me it was one of the absolute highlights of 2014.




S: You’ve captured the best of DJs in your iconic pictures. Name few of your favorite DJs to work with.
RUDGR: That’s a seriously hard question because shooting “difficult” artists creates a challenge that I like and shooting familiar artists is just so rewarding because of the feedback afterwards or even during the show. It’s pretty obvious that I always enjoy shooting Armin. Nicky Romero and Fedde le Grand are always very intense and in their own bubble so you have to be very alert to capture them at their best. Hardwell and Garrix are some of the nicest around and Afrojack always picks my favorite out-of-the box photos for usage online, he rarely goes for the behind-the-DJ-arms-spread photo, which is something I appreciate. It’s kind of funny being alone in a DJ booth with an artist with no one around, not even the tour manager. This mostly happens at Tomorrowland gigs since the DJ booth is highly restricted, there’s such an intimate atmosphere then even though you’ll have 50.000 people going crazy 50 meters away from you. But at that moment it’s just you and the artist and you’re oblivious to the world around you. It’s really the strangest feeling.


S: Share your 3 favorite photographs and tell us why these photos are special for you?
Armin van Buuren, Trance Energy, the Netherlands. 2009
This is a lesser known photo but still one of my all-time favorites. I actually showed it to Armin this spring when working on the book and he’d never seen it before. It’s one of those moments where it all comes together: light, crowd and DJ are in perfect position. You just have to wait and grab the moment.
Sensation Brasil, Sao Paulo, 2012
I was doing a major piece for National Geographic Magazine on the Dutch music scene and as a regular Sensation photographer, ID&T – the organizers – offered to fly me to Sao Paulo for the Brasilian edition. I really love taking intimate crowd photos, a tiny unique moment in a sea of people. There’s 45.000 people in the venue and I get these two kissing. These are the photos that I live for, these make my day more than anything.
Tomorrowland, Belgium, 2014


I’ve always been known for my helicopter photography – especially night shots which I pioneered at dance festivals. However, this daylight photo – rainy and all – is one of my all-time favorites at Tomorrowland. It is the photo in my collection that really shows the massive scale of the event. Even though I have so many crazy fireworks shots from the heli, this one tells the story best.


S: People around the world live an event/festival through your pictures. Tell us what is the one thing you love most about capturing an EDM festival?


RUDGR: People. I love photographing the people, even though it’s magic to be shooting on stage I love finding those details that tell the story. Although I do a lot more artist photography these days than before my love is finding details, finding moments to freeze in time. To make the viewer wonder what’s happening or to just to make them feel they should have been a part of it. And for those that were: a lasting memory of a beautiful experience.


S: If there’s some advice you’d give an aspiring EDM photographer. What would it be?
RUDGR: First of all: be persistent, it’s going to take time – a lot of it probably. Chances of you being in the DJ booth at a major festival are very small in the beginning of your career. That’s okay, it takes time – simple as that. Secondly; be nice, behave, be reliable – nobody’s interested in hiring a loose canon! And finally a technical tip: don’t be afraid to shoot a lot of photos, give your camera a chance to capture that split second moment!


This is my Church‘ releases on 14th October. You can pre-order it here to get a signed copy!


Tiesto at Shcokers, Amsterdam (1999)


Martin Garrix at Ultra South Africa, Cape Town (2015)




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