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Future of Ottawa: Photography Studios with Thomas Cumberbatch and Tegan Smith

By Apartment613 on March 30, 2021


This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into Ottawa’s art scene—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Thomas Cumberbatch and Tegan Smith on studio spaces in Ottawa, or read posts from Marisa Gallemit on visual art, Olivia Johnston on photographic arts, or Carrie Colton on art galleries.

Children of parents who came to Canada from the Caribbean in the ’60s and ’70s, both Tegan Smith and Thomas Cumberbatch were born and raised in Ottawa. After obtaining degrees from the University of Ottawa and Bishop’s University (respectively), they went on to pursue careers in the field of communications and marketing. Twelve years ago they started a growth strategy and creative firm called Godzspeed Communications, which specializes in unearthing and illuminating the souls of brands. They have been involved in the growth of over 100 businesses since its inception (2010). Their greatest accomplishment, however, is being parents to their lion cubs.

Tegan Smith and Thomas Cumberbatch. Photo: Brittany Delgaty,

What is the current landscape of photography studios in Ottawa?

Tegan Smith and Thomas Cumberbatch: I think Ottawa has a good mix of photography studios that offer a diverse set of options. Whether you’re looking for a studio that provides a large cyclorama, coloured backdrops, a collection of props and pre-designed sets, or an open space with natural light, the collection of studios in the nation’s capital has got you covered.

We’ve had a great mix of established nationally recognized photographers and cinematographers who have created beautiful, memorable work at our studio. Our parent company Godzspeed Communications has created an abundance of content for national brands, and some of our studio clients have created content for the likes of Bacardi, HBO, national political parties, the Government of Canada, K-Swiss, and others.

We’ve been blessed enough to accommodate this diverse set of content as a result of our eclectic space and model. We are a combination of all studio types in one space. We have the luxury of offering this experience as a result of the fact that our studio is situated in a 6,000-square-foot space with a 40-foot natural light wall, nearly 20 set options in space that we call the playground, as well as an 800-square-foot private studio that can be closed for traditional studio productions.

One of the things that we’ve been excited to provide our studio clients is a collection of quality gear that they can rent from us in-house.

If you care to make a prediction… How will the pandemic affect photography studios in 2021?

We think that the pandemic will inspire a fire for creativity in 2021. Being trapped inside will cause anyone who is creative to want to break free from the restrictions of the pandemic. I know for us, barriers and challenges inspire new ideas that need to be executed in order for us to find inner peace. This will also encourage the creative community to come together to craft something new together. We need spaces to collaborate, and we are happy to be one of the brands that is holding the space necessary for creative people to craft a new way.

“We need spaces to collaborate.”

One of the things that helps us on a daily basis is the combination of our creative and business acumen. Studio 20/20 was birthed out of a growth strategy and creative firm that understands the intersection of creative execution and business strategy. If studios in the city approach growth creatively and strategically, we will all succeed, despite the pandemic.

Where in your wildest dreams could Studio 20/20 go in your lifetime?

We are the type of people that see dreams as a destination. We believe the dreams become a reality when you design a plan. We have designed a plan to evolve into the third place for creative people in the city who want to grow their art and develop it into thriving businesses. We have been taking the time to craft our expansion plan, which in the coming years will offer something the city has never experienced, and we are excited to accomplish all of these things with the combination of divine inspiration and the support and collaboration of our friends and partners.

What is the best innovation to take place in photography since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

The greatest advancement in the photography space has been in the area of social innovation. We’ve seen a large increase in collaboration between people in the photography community, and that’s a beautiful thing. When people connect to create in collaboration, new ideas emerge. Intellectual capital and ideas are some of the most valuable things on the planet when they are developed with the right intent and with the right people.

Who is the future of photography studios in Ottawa?

We would be crazy to say anyone other than us… LOL.

Tell us something you wish somebody told you when you started your career in photography.

We wish somebody told us that you didn’t have to sell your soul to get paid for your gifts. We see so many people undervaluing their gifting. When we started out in photography, we were one of those folks as well. The key for anyone who wants to make photography a full-time gig is to not only understand the value of your work, but to become a master at conveying the value of your work, so that you spend less time talking about money in a transaction and more time talking about the impact that your work will make in someone’s life or their business. If you don’t have that skill as a photographer or cinematographer, you may remain a starving artist for your entire career.

Back in 2015, Apartment613 took a look at the future of Ottawa across several different sectors. In 2021, we’re bringing the series back, asking experts, artists, and community leaders to shed some light on their local field or industry, as it stands now and where they think—or dream—it will go over the next few years. Every week we’ll profile a different cultural sector in Ottawa, leaving no niche unexplored—from social justice to theatre, bars to sports, to the future of the municipality and its natural environs. Keep an eye out for a new batch of posts every Tuesday on