Toon Grobet was born into a family rich in photographic heritage. His grandfather started a small photo business in the centre of Antwerp, Belgium in 1939. As a photographer, he spied for the allied forces during World War II. Unfortunately he was captured by the Gestapo and subsequentily executed. His grandmother then continued the business which Toon's uncle took over in the sixties and turned it into a success.
Toon's father was an architect who took him to see the marvels of European architecture, both ancient and modern, while on family holidays. He also introduced Toon to modern art through various visits to museums as well as bookshelves filled with art books. The interest in visual arts also crept in via a nice collection of very popular comic books. The works of Franquin and Hergé were especially appreciated in the family.
In spite of all of this, Toon began his studies in science and languages. After a dramatic personal event which will remain private, he drastically changed course and started to study photography. This was even more surprising because until then he didn't have any real interaction with the medium other than the fact that photography was widely practiced in his family.
During his first years as a photography student at the polytechnic school in Antwerp, Toon developed a set style. He found that the latent knowledge of modernism from his childhood had a vast influence on his conception of photography.
He soon realised that his love of architecture and rigid lines could form the ideal combination for a career as an architectural photographer. While still attending school, he started as an apprentice at the studio of Sybolt Voeten, a famous Dutch architecture photographer, where Toon later worked as an assistant for a year.
In 1993 he set up his own small business.
Although some of Toon's work is considered by some as arty, he himself sees it rather as craftsmanship and an interpretation of the concepts of others. All of his work is commissioned by architects, interior decorators, lighting firms, builders, project developers, etc... As such he approaches his photography as commercial reportage.
At the start of such a reportage he explores the building with his camera and shoots what he calls the obligatory descriptive pictures. But even those informative pictures are elaborate and expose a great concern for clear forms, lines and simplicity. "Less is more" is one of his credos, a quote from one of the biggest modern minimalist architects of the 20th century Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
This search for simplicity results in abstract pictures that Toon Grobet realises within the bounderies of an assignment, although he himself describes it as the essence of his work. "For me the descriptive pictures I make are somewhat like a painter who first makes sketches in charcoal. But then to the contrary, the painter sets out simple lines on which he constructs the more complex image. I try to do the opposite. Picture after picture, I try to simplify the complexity of a building until I find the essence of the structure in sometimes just a few lines. But I need to go through that process to be able to grasp this basic architectural idea."
As a whole, his work is unpretentious and pragmatic as it is conceived as a service for architects. But he excels in a characteristic, graphical style which is the result of a tangible, elaborate search for simplicity in forms, light and composition. Although Toon is concentrating on the visual, graphic aspects of his images, his work is often experienced as emotionally moving.
This approach and vision of images and architecture is much appreciated judging by the numerous publications of Toon's pictures in magazines and books all over the world as well as the regular invitations he gets as a speaker at universities, art schools and congresses.
Toon Grobet, one of the first among his peers, was rewarded by the Federation of European Professional Photographers with the Master Qualified European Photographers certificate. Toon also constantly tries to keep up with the latest developments in the industry and is considered as somewhat of an authority on the digital workflow and colour management. He regularly publishes articles in popular technology magazines on those subjects.