Art and Light Fill This Superb Studio
TIFF co-founder Henk Van der Kolk and wife Yanka converted their workspace into a gorgeous home
They are an imposing couple. Both blond and Dutch, they are often decked out in black leathers like eminence grises emerging from a biker boardroom.
She, Yanka Van der Kolk, is an iconic model/photographer/image consultant. He, Henk Van der Kolk, is a producer of educational and industrial pictures and five feature films and who — with Bill Marshall and Dusty Cohl — in 1976 founded the Festival of Festivals which today is the internationally renowned Toronto International Film Festival.
In 2012, Henk established the International Film Festival Panama.
Together, they run her business, Imaging & Photography, out of their home, a 1,700-square-foot loft in a commercial/residential space at Broadview and Eastern Aves.
They do highly stylized photographic portraits with clientele ranging from business executives to museum presidents, singers, actors, fashion models and bouncing babies.
They have three grown kids: Yolanda and Roland (twins) and Lance. Portraits of the pair by Yolanda, Yanka’s former partner in a photography biz, hang prominently.
“Imaging and photography — it’s her business; I just work for Yanka — I do the lights,” says Henk. “Yanka likes flat lighting.”
They have two cats, Charlie and Cuqiui, a rescue from Panama, where they lived for five years, from 2010 to 2015. They have resided in this studio complex, in various iterations, for a decade. This space is open concept, with one bedroom, a substantial fenced-in patio, a living/dining area and full kitchen — whose fridge is plastered with glam photos of the couple and shots of Yanka in full-on model mode.
The coffee table in the living room is a farmer’s weigh scale; the chairs in the living room, bought second-hand on the Danforth, are off a steam ship. Art is everywhere — including in the bathroom, which features paintings by surrealist Miro Malish, a Canadian of Czech descent. Outside the bathroom, there’s a bobble head of Yanka by Panamanian artist Joaquin Carrasquilla. C’mon, who has their own bobble head?
In the bedroom is a rendition of Puerto Vallarta by Evelyne Boren, who was an underwater stunt double in the James Bond flicks Thunderball and You Only Live Twice before her art career took off. Yanka met her while power-walking in Panama. On another wall: treasured lithographs by Canadian artist Robert Markle.
An art installation in itself is Yanka’s “office” off the main entrance, a fully-loaded makeup area complete with a mirror worthy of Sephora where Yanka does makeup, touches up hair and coaches.
They estimate that 90 per cent of their clients hate having their photos taken.
“We don’t pose people (for the camera),” says Henk. “We move people on set due to Yanka’s experience as a model. She has a great awareness of the camera and changes people’s attitude to the camera. Her attitude is so right on: don’t freeze people. There is no ‘say cheese.’ You get people to look good.”
Why working at home works for them: “There is no traffic (to get to work),” Henk says. “We have the proper makeup studio, proper lighting — we think everyone should redo their lighting. We have a number of backdrops. We like the environment, we like living in a studio — the space is great and we’re minimalists. This Markle (lithograph) has travelled with me since 1976. I don’t feel at home till I hang this — it’s the only thing I took to Panama.”
Why working at home doesn’t work: It can get a tad claustrophobic, Henk says.
“One of the things is that we make sure we go outside. We are crazy about each other but we need to get away from an enclosed space.” They have been together for 54 years. “I cast her from Orangeville,” he cracks. “I was looking for a good-looking Dutch woman I could marry.”
How to combat cabin fever: “The space changes dramatically — you move furniture and put away the lights and it’s not the same space,” says Yanka.
“All the spaces are dual performing,” Henk adds. “The living room becomes the studio; my office (his work room where he stores equipment when not shooting) becomes a dressing room.”
“You have to stay organized but you can walk out,” adds Yanka. “The whole street is our playing ground. You need to walk out and encounter other energy — which is why I can’t live in the country.”
How they separate work from home: “This is a set, this living room is a set but you feel comfortable to invite friends,” says Henk. “This is a multi-purpose space and she tidies it up. All I do is move two chairs and I swing the backdrop.”