The Sculptor in the Garden

I’ve lost track of the times I’ve shot at Mitchell Memorial Garden (the old Labatts Garden).  How many children or dogs have posed with the sculpture of Fred Mitchell and the little girl?  I honestly couldn’t tell you off the top of my head.  If nothing else, it serves as the meeting point for myself and many of my clients – and inevitably ends up the topic of conversation.

Today I arrived at the garden a little early for my early evening shoot.  Everything started out pretty normally.  I walked through the garden, noting any changes since the last time I was there (a couple of days previously).  I picked up a couple of pieces of garbage and threw them away.  I then went to my favourite bench, pulled out my iPad, and began writing to pass the time waiting for my 4:15.

A man arrived at the park.  Carrying an armload of supplies.  He set them all down next to the sculpture.  We smiled at one another, and he set to work.  Cleaning and waxing the 10 year old art piece that I know so well (heck, I even have wedding pictures that were taken with it).  I put down my iPad, picked up my camera, and walked over to ask if I could photograph him.

“Not me, but them? Certainly.”

I laughed, and explained that I had photographed them many times before.  That it was him I was hoping to capture.  That I was so happy to see the white-out gone from their eyes, and their former glory restored… the weathered white lines disappearing with the application of wax.  He grinned, and looked like he had a great secret.  “I’m the sculptor you know.”  I didn’t know.

The two of us talked for a few minutes.  He told me about some of his other works that are on display here in Saskatoon, and about one that is in Regina.  We talked cameras too – turns out we both shoot with the same model, and both have our eye on the same lens for our next purchase.  We both like heavy glass.  He told me how he was a Dutch immigrant, how he came here when he was 7 years old.  Spoke no English, but was thrust into the school system only a few weeks after landing… and how terrifying that was.

I snapped a few pictures as we chatted, and as he worked.

Then my 4:15 arrived.  I walked them through the garden.  Shared my favourite spots to shoot family portraits there.  And asked what they thought.  As I began shooting, my new sculptor friend walked over and asked for my name (he’d already written his down for me, and it never occurred to me to share mine with him).  I gave him my card.  And I have to admit, I hope he looks me up.  I wouldn’t mind having another chance to talk – without concerns of being pulled away.

Meet Hans Holtkamp, a fascinating man – not used to being the subject of someone else’s art:

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About Tobi-Dawne

Tobi-Dawne Smith is many things to many people... photographer, canine behaviour expert, equal rights activist, green politician, lactivist, intactivist, writer, crafter, dog handler, third wave feminist, etc. But most important in her life is her role as mother to an amazing five year old. Learn more about TD at follow her blog at get to know her daughter at or check out her work at

Posted on September 7, 2011, in Joy Journey, Just a Note, Nikon D90, People, TD Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. It’s awesome you got to meet the sculptor of your favorite pieces 🙂 Hopefully you will be able to spend more time with him and I dunno, maybe work together on a project? 🙂

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