Canon Canada has opened its first-ever mentorship incubator. If you're a creator looking for a helping hand up to the next level, applications are being accepted until August 16.
Certainly, Canon is a for-profit camera company interested in selling cameras. It's heartening, however, that Canon is using some of its marketing and advertising budget to help photographers learn the ropes of what had become an increasingly cut-throat industry. As a long-time proponent of mentoring and community building, I'm really excited to see a major camera company put its focus on learning.
I recently had a chance to speak with Brett Gaskell, Canon Canada's Senior Director of Customer Experience, about the inception and plans for Canon's Futures Program.
How'd Canon Get Here?
For the six years prior to COVID, Canon Canada had been offering meet-ups, workshops, and gallery talks as a way of showing off its gear while also giving back to its users. Clearly, COVID put an end to the in-person education approach. Gaskell explained that Canon pivoted to more online education. The popularity of its online education platform showed Canon that there was a massive pool of photographers seeking help. Canon and its featured ambassadors found that they were running out of time with every online session trying to answer all of the potential follow-up questions.
In an effort to give its users more, Canon decided to design a mentorship program that could offer attendees the chance to ask all the questions they wanted.
The Application Process
Canon is currently accepting applications from any young creators that use cameras. Canon isn't limiting attendees to traditional stills or video creators. Gaskell explained that Canon is confident that its wide array of ambassadors will be able to mentor any type of creator that applies.
Of note, the application and program are free.
I realize that there are readers that will assume that Canon is using the program to get branded cameras into the hands of influencers. Gaskell explained that the applicants will be selected based on commitment, passion, ability, and portfolio, not audience count.
The Futures Program
The Futures Program will use the application process to line up particular speakers and mentors to focus on the areas participants want to focus on. The goal for Canon is to provide a schedule that is reflective of the participants' needs. Canon expects to run at least two sessions a month. One session will be a more formal seminar or workshop and one session will be, as Gaskell puts it, akin to a professor's office hours. This will give participants access to a rotating slate of Canon ambassadors and product experts for AMA-type interactions.
In addition, the Futures program will include a weekend-long seminar in Banff, Alberta.
Gaskell acknowledged that Canon is aware of the sea of online learning tools currently available. Instead of adding to the deluge, Canon intends to allow its ambassadors to teach the participants in a more interactive way. Gaskell was adamant that the Futures program isn't a year-long sales pitch and that the ambassadors won't be reading Canon copy to the participants. Ultimately, Canon wants its ambassadors to share the benefits of their experiences with the participants through a mentor-type relationship.
That being said, each participant will be given a Canon welcome kit, including an EOS R, 24-105mm f/4-7.1 STM lens, a mount adapter EF-EOS R, an RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM lens, a one-year Adobe Creative Suite license, and a one-year Squarespace membership.
Of special interest, the Futures program will feature a mental health talk led by Ajani Charles dealing with rejection, imposter syndrome, and creative block.
Given the pressure of the past 18 months on photographers trying to maintain a business, I'm glad that Canon is interested in building resilience among its users. Charles is also the founder of The Visionaries, a Toronto-based photography and cinematography non-profit and educational program that provides mentoring to youth from the city’s priority neighborhoods.
Natalia Seth, a photographer and multimedia artist, will be talking about how to curate, optimize, and publish on different social media platforms to build community.
As Gaskell explained, Canon's current marketing philosophy is focused on being experimental and reflective. So, although feedback may lead the program in a different direction next year, the intent is to continue the Futures Program as an annual program.
All images were provided by Canon Canada and attributed to their creators. Lead image by Mohamed Nohassi.