Meet the Emphas.is Reviewers – Bruno De Cock
As Emphas.is opens up its admissions process, we will be relying on our talented, passionate board of reviewers to help us maintain a high level of quality photographic projects on the site. To help you get to know the people looking at project proposals (and what they’re looking for), we’ll be posting interviews with several reviewers over the coming weeks. First up is MSF International Photo Editor Bruno De Cock.
Please tell us a bit about what your history with photography and what you do now day-today.
Born and based in Ghent, Belgium, I have been a documentary photographer since 1994. This has evolved into photo editing as a full-time job, starting as a freelancer on the photo desk of a local Belgian newspaper, and then moving on to the photo department of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders (MSF) in Belgium. After working there for eight years, I am now the MSF International Photo Editor, overseeing the organization’s archive and photo production on a global level, I am the co-author of MSF’s ethical guidelines for ethical photo use, and I’m involved in several multimedia projects developed in collaboration with agencies and multimedia producers.
I have also maintained a strong hands-on role in photography, traveling to Africa, Asia, and throughout Europe, documenting the work of MSF. In addition, I have been a teacher/instructor, training staff and patients in basic photography in order to provide finished galleries and multi-media projects.
In a different direction, I have always continued to make personal work, often using low-tech photography such as phone cameras and Polaroids, and I have successfully sold a series of prints to Belgium galleries and collectors over the past years.
How did you get involved with Emphas.is and why did you decided to join the Emphas.is board of reviewers?
I had met Karim many years ago in the MSF offices in Brussels, when he was still living in Belgium. We worked together a couple of times and stayed in touch over the years. When I heard about his project, I immediately volunteered to help in any way I could. That turned out to be the board of reviewers and I’m really happy to be part of this.
What qualities and elements are you looking for when you review a potential project for Emphas.is?
I’m really interested to discover what kind of projects will be presented. So far, I have been very impressed by the projects on Emphas.is and I think it’s part of our job to maintain that level. What I like to see with any photographer is commitment and personal involvement in their work. There are many photographers out there, and many stories are covered by multiple photographers; to me, the level of personal involvement is usually the thing that makes the difference.
The Emphas.is platform is perfect to sustain a type of photography that has come under pressure over the last years because of lack of space and budget to produce these stories. It would be great if we could make them happen with the support of crowdfunding.
I believe that with the direct involvement of the ‘public’, or the funders, comes a different type of commitment. I think these projects require a transparancy to the donors, and a clear action plan. What’s the message, the aim, and how do they plan to make a difference? I think those questions should be answered by the project. Credibility is also crucial here, and there is no place for vague intentions or lack of insight on what the story is really about.
Do you have any advice for photographers who want to crowdfund a project, or are simply working on a long-term project and looking for alternative funding?
Since I have no first hand experience in crowd funding, I think it’s difficult to give sound advice. I would recommend embracing the nature of crowd funding and the internet as it is today. Play the game by participating in the exchange between fans/supporters or just interested people. Join the conversation, as they say.
The “Making Of” section on Emhas.is is really an added value and should be used well. I haven’t had the time to follow all of the projects, but I liked Tomas van Houtryve’s approach a lot. Giving many details and sharing the things they’re struggling with as they’re working, responding to questions and listening to suggestions.
A photographer seeking to find support and a public should use the channels available for this, steadily building a network. The key here is to find a balance in releasing the work and letting supporters engage with it, while keeping control over the story as an author.