Looking for a Creative Community? Try Canon’s Incubator

A strong community and invested mentors are crucial ingredients for sustainable growth and success. I recently had the chance to sit down and chat with two Canon Canada FUTURES alumni, Eli Meadow Ramraj and Gessy Robin Shumbusho, about the importance of community to their careers. The deadline for Canon Canada’s FUTURES Year Two Incubator Program is fast approaching. If you need that boost you can only get from a committed mentor and supportive community, don’t hesitate, don’t be nervous, apply.

Success in this industry is hotly contested. Photography can be quite fierce on some levels. Many successful creators aren’t at all interested in sitting down and sharing what they’ve learned. Unless, of course, you enroll in one of those challenging “you can be a photographer too” courses.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m very impressed with the level of commitment Canon Canada has shown to the creator community. Interested in an insider’s perspective, I reached out to two of the new FUTURES alumni to hear their stories.

Nothing to lose, everything to gain

Ramraj and Shumbusho both knew they were creative, but they both admit to having only a tenuous understanding of the knowledge needed to take the next step in their careers. Ramraj was working on an undergraduate degree in film theory and philosophy while interning at a production house. Ramraj was considering a professional path in directing, but was unsure how to transition from student films to commercial works and features. Shumbusho grew up with a very creative father who encouraged an interest in music. However, growing up in Kigali, Rwanda made Shumbusho feel that the arts didn’t make economic sense. Shumbusho felt it made more sense to find a career that provided a stable income. Shumbusho alluded to the idea that the arts might even have seemed a bit mundane in a community still learning to cope with the trauma of the Rwandan genocide. However, attracted by creation, he never stopped taking pictures and fell in love with the ideals of documentary photography and cinema. Many said he had an eye, Shumbusho wanted to find a path to imagery, but didn’t know how to negotiate a career in the arts.

Similarly, Shumbusho and Ramraj have spent a lot of time anonymously following YouTube in an effort to grow their craft. Ramraj was nearing the end of his internship and was looking for a creative community, separate from his academic community at school. Shumbusho was studying journalism, but continued to feel drawn to the image. When the FUTURE materials crossed his stream, Shumbusho realized that the instructors and mentors were the people working on the projects he dreamed of. While reviewing the application requirements, Ramraj realized that he fulfilled the criteria as a passionate young storyteller. Knowing that the program would speak to others as it spoke to him, he realized he wanted to be among those people.

Stretch for it

Both Shumbusho and Ramraj asked me to pass on the same advice: take a chance and apply. Why not? What do you have to lose? As Shumbusho said, stretch a little and you might find a community of other people who also gave their all. Surround yourself with the type of success you want to achieve; surround yourself with the kind of people you want to be.

Both Ramraj and Shumbusho noted that the best part of FUTURES Year One was meeting everyone in person at the Banff retreat. As they explained why they loved Banff so much, almost in unison, they agreed it all started at the airport as they gathered to fly out. For FUTURES attendees, it seemed like the very moment they realized they had found a community of people like themselves, excited to learn how to create.

Of course, Shumbusho and Ramraj listed their favorite workshops, how some workshops have completely changed their approach to projects. But it is the community of mentors and participants that they will take with them. Both Ramraj and Shumbusho noted how the mentors sat down, had lunch undisturbed in front of them, answered questions outside of the schedule, how there were no out of bounds questions, that it was those informal mentoring moments full impossible-to-Google questions that changed their lives. .

As Ramraj said, the relationships he built at FUTURES transcended the relationships with classmates and teachers typical of workshops. He made connections and built lasting relationships.

For Shumbusho, seeing mentors working with such a variety of creators across a variety of genres has helped him understand and implement solutions in different ways. Shumbusho was able to attend FUTURES and take away a community of diverse mentors and other learners who will help him grow throughout his life.

Canon’s efforts to organize this type of knowledge exchange and to facilitate the creation of this type of community are amazing. Sure, you could say that Canon is trying to up all the boats, which would mean more camera sales at some point in the future, but that’s a REALLY long game. I would rather see Canon’s efforts as those of a company that is so proud of its products that it genuinely wants people to use them better, to use them to build community and create.

And after

Shumbusho is considering working on a new film and is hard at work on a new series of photographs that he would like to show in a gallery in the Toronto or Montreal area.

Ramraj begins work on his feature film, The Only Bar on King Street. Ramraj is also working on developing his skills as a candid portrait photographer. His photo of Shumbusho is used by Canon Canada as part of their FUTURES Year Two promo. I guess that also makes Shumbusho a role model.

Before ending here, not only has Canon shared mentorship with Shumbusho and Ramraj, but the whole experience has encouraged Shumbusho and Ramraj to offer assistance to anyone wishing to apply to Canon Canada’s FUTURES incubator. So if you have any burning questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

All images provided by Ramraj and Shumbusho. Main image by Shumbusho (from Ramraj at Canon Canada’s Banff Retreat)

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