Filipina Domestic Helper Makes A Name For Herself In Photography

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Xyza Cruz Bacani is a Filipina street photographer based in Hong Kong, known for her black-and-white photos of Hong Kong street life. Bacani grew up in Bamband, Nueva Vizcaya in the Philippines. Before leaving the Philippines, she studied nursing. It was during this time that her interest in photography first took root, although she couldn’t afford a camera at the time. In order to help earn funds for the education of her siblings, Bacani joined her mother in Hong Kong when she was 18.

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Working as a nanny for the same Chinese-Australian woman who employed her mother, one of Bacani’s tasks was caring for her boss’s seven grandchildren. A few years after she’d moved to Hong Kong, Bacani started taking photos with a Nikon D90 she purchased with money borrowed from her employer.

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With camera her in hand during her spare time, Bacani began prowling the streets of Hong Kong allowing her mood to determine her destination. She honed her photography skills by capturing various aspects of Hong Kong’s Chinese communities as well as the play of light and shadows between the city’s iconic buildings.

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Bacani was encouraged in her photography by her mentor, San Francisco-based photographer Rick Rocamora, who she met on a Filipino photographers’ group on Facebook.

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Bacani has been building a reputation through her striking photographs of ordinary life in Hong Kong. Among her various street images of Hong Kong society, Bacani has also covered the 2014 Hong Kong protests, and documented the lives of other domestic helpers in Hong Kong. Continuing to work as live-in helper, any extra cash she earns from overtime goes toward cameras, lenses and film. Although she loves photography, she says she’ll never leave her day job as “it pays very well.”

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Bacani has been featured in major international publications including the New York Times and Italian Vogue. In 2015, she was announced as a recipient of the 2015 Human Rights Fellowship by the Magnum Foundation, a prestigious scholarship that gave her the opportunity to study in an intensive, six-week-long program at New York University in New York.

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Author: Kana Kukui

Part Asian/part Western, and having lived almost my entire life in Asia, photography, particularly photography in Asia, has been a major interest in both my personal and professional life. Over the years I’ve noticed that there’s a huge pool of talented photographers in Asia that generally goes unnoticed outside their local country. I’ve also found that there is a great interest in Asia by photographers based outside the region. The purpose of this site, and my Twitter (@KanaKukui) is simple: 1) to share some insights about photography in Asia – introducing talented photographers shooting in Asia, and subjects and locations to shoot in the region. And 2) to provide a little inspiration to everyone interested in photography – from the hobbyist to the emerging professional.

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