Xyza Cruz Bacani has been documenting Hong Kong through street photography since 2009. She shot to fame with her work a few years later, when she began documenting people, and human rights issues.
It led to several arts exhibitions, and eventually, a Human Rights Fellowship at New York University. She’s a Human Rights Fellow at the New York-based non-profit photographic organization Magnum Foundation, and was also honored as one of BBC’s 100 Women of the World in 2015.
Today, she travels the world documenting human rights abuses and produces documentaries in Hong Kong, Singapore, New York and the UAE.
But her story isn’t a usual one. Her own mentor, fellow Filipino photographer Rick Rocamora, initially thought she was “another rich kid who had nothing to do but shoot” — but that’s far from what was the case. In 2006, Bacani moved to Hong Kong from the Philippines, joining her mother as a domestic worker in the same household. She asked for a camera, and began to snap photos of everyday Hong Kong — eventually moving on to taking photos of human rights issues, particularly cases of domestic helpers suffering from unjust and illegal treatment from employers.
“I had very little cards to play in life and at the beginning, that motivated me to work harder,” she says. “Now, I’m very motivated to evolve and grow as an artist and be a better human being.”
“I had very little cards to play in life and at the beginning, that motivated me to work harder.”
Bacani is working on her first book with support from the WMA Commission, an organization that invites artists and photographers to create research-based photography work in Hong Kong, focusing on the theme of transition. The book will focus on mobility and migration.
“My book will be my final nod to my four years of ongoing work on migration in Hong Kong,” Bacani explains. “I hope that my work can help [with creating] an inclusive society where everyone is given equal opportunities, no matter who you are, where you came from, what gender you have or the color of your skin.”
Her role model? “My mom and my former boss, and all my mentors who guided me.”
Proudest achievement? “I’m proud of my humble beginnings. It gave me curiosity and a drive to continue to evolve and grow as a person, and as an artist.”