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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Nepali Female Photojournalist Documents Life

Uma Bista - selfie with her father

Uma Bista is both a photojournalist and documentary photographer in her native Nepal. Born and raised in Kathmandu, Uma’s first encounter with photography was when she took up a short course while she was in the 12th grade. Further to that, she attended many photography workshops to improve her craft.

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Rebelling against her parents’ dream for her to become a nurse, Uma pursued her passion for photography, eventually working full-time with two of Nepal’s leading newspapers – The Himalayan Times and The Annapurna Post.

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When asked about her passion for photography, Uma replies, “I love all kinds of photography. But especially I prefer documentary photography. It covers everything. I want to document people, the joy, the love, the anger, the mystery, the feelings, the humor, the sadness. I feel happy while doing this.”

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Uma’s work has been exhibited at “Kathmandu, Kathmandu”, “The Constant Change”, “Mega Bank Photo Exhibition”, and “Opportunity Knocks” at Chobi Mela VII in Dhaka. Her photos have also been published in the books “The Constant Change” and “Nepal The Land of Contrast”.

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Meeting a female working as a photographer in Nepal is rare. Few locals take up photography professionally, and among them there are very few women. This makes Uma’s accomplishments in photography even more unique.

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Indonesian ‘Hobbyist’ Photographer Creates Breathtaking Black and White Photos

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Hengki Koentjoro is a fine art photographer based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Born in Semarang, Central Java, his love affair with photography began when his parents gave him a Kodak pocket camera as a birthday present when he turned 11 years old.

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After graduating from California’s Brooks Institute of Photography with a major in film/video production and minor in Black & White photography, Hengki returned to Indonesia and settled in Jakarta. There, he works as a videographer and video editor. His video work mostly consists of corporate profiles, TV commercials, and nature documentaries.

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Although Hengki claims photography is just a serious hobby that he indulges in his spare time, his images have won countless awards worldwide. It’s easy to understand why.

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Hengki’s preference for black and white photography is influenced by his admiration for the work of Ansel Adams. In his own words, Hengki says of Adams, “His ability to control the tonality to create moods and atmosphere captivated me and my passion started from there and I never looked back”.

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Practicing Ansel Adam’s Zone System, before shooting, Hengki tries to envision his subjects in black and white. He believes this helps in choosing the proper subject matter, composing the photo, and forecasting how the resulting image will look.

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The ability to play around with tones allows Henki to create atmospheric photos that beautifully balance a combination of composition, texture, shapes and lines.

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“Photography can never be separated from the aspects of making the common things unusual, welcoming the unexpected, indulging and embracing ourselves with the joy of photography”. Hengki Koentjoro

Lake Lido

Prashant Panjiar – Veteran Photojournalist in India

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A self-taught independent photojournalist, Prashant Panjiar is one of India’s best-known photographers.

The students play on the hill adjoining the Gurukul.

Based in New Delhi, Prashant specializes in reportage – editorial and documentary photography. A veteran in his field, he also works as a consulting editor, curator, and educator.

A fisherman with his catch, Veerampattinam, Pondicherry.

Actively involved in guiding young photographers in India, Prashant is one of the three senior photographers who select and mentor young documentary photographers for National Foundation of India’s fellowship program. He is also a co-founder of the Delhi Photo Festival, and the Nazar Foundation.

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Born in 1957, Prashant is a post-graduate in Political Science from Pune University, India. During his university days, he developed his photographic skills working on photographic projects that focused on peasant movements and other social issues.

A farmer plows his field before the start of the sowing season.

From 1984 through 2001, Prashant worked for several major Indian magazines as a photographer and eventually editor. Since 2001, he has devoted himself to being a full-time independent photographer specializing in editorial and documentary photography. Prashant’s work is regularly published in leading magazines both in India and abroad.

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Contemporary Japanese Photographer’s Saturated Colors Create A Distinctive Style

Self-image, 2013

Japanese photographer Mika Ninagawa first trained as a graphic designer, before turning to photography.

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In addition to achieving success through her commercial work in fashion and advertising, Ninagawa has also won numerous awards for her art photography which explores themes of Japanese youth culture, the dark side of eroticism, and the effects of light on color.

Woman in red dress

Ninagawa is best known for her vibrant and brightly colored photographs of flowers, goldfish, and landscapes.

Praying Mantis on flower

Further expanding her creative repertoire, Ninagawa directed her first full-length film in 2007 (Sakuran), followed by a music video for the popular group AKB48, and a film adaption of Helter Skelter (the Japanese manga).

Open field with trees

It’s always a pleasure to see a talented creative person who continues to explore different medium.

Maitree Siriboon – Thai Village Boy Becomes Acclaimed Artist

Portrait of Maitree Siriboon

Maitree Siriboon was born iand raised in a rural village in Ubon Ratchathani, Isan, (in the north-eastern region of Thailand). At age 15, he Around 10 years ago he moved to Bangkok to study art, first at the College of Fine Art and later at Silpakorn University where he received his Bachelors in Fine Art.

Buffalo Boy with Flowers

The multi-talented Thai artist works in various media – mosaic collages, installations, performances, and most recently, photography.

Mosaic Buffalo

Maitree incorporates much of his childhood landscape into his art, where one can view a colorful scheme of trees, farmers, rice paddies, and water buffalo.

Buffalo Boy with Laptop

According to Maitree, “I’m an Isarn Boy who dreams of making art that heals the world both naturally and spiritually. My home, Ubon Rathchantani, gave me life as a child.”

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The 30-year-old has a wonderful collection of photography and mosaic pieces that pay tribute to water buffalo – appropriately entitled “Buffalo’s Heart”.

Panda buffalo

In recent times, a common insult in Thai is to call someone ‘kwai’ _ a ‘buffalo’. The term is used to describe someone who is less educated, difficult to teach, foolish, or stupid.

Maitree Siriboon in staw pile with water buffalo

Maitree is not amused by the term, as he believes that the buffalo, through its hard work that helped build Thailand into a rice-farming nation, was a key component to building Thailand into the modern nation it is today. Through his work, the artist hopes to restore the dignity of the lovely kwai.

Maitree Siriboon lying on water buffalo

Maitree is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Bangkok Bank Art Award, and the Silpakorn Pradit Award. His art has been featured in an array of publications, such as The Nation, Elle, Contemporary Magazine, and Art Asia Pacific.

Lang Jingshan – A Pioneer of Chinese Photography

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Photo of Lang Jingshan, Chinese photographer

The influence of Lang Jingshan (郎静山) on Chinese photography is indisputable. Lang (his family name) was born in China in 1892, and was first influenced by his military father who had an interest in both art and photography. While attending middle school in Shanghai, Lang received his only formal instruction in photography from his art teacher at age 12.

During the 1920s, Lang became one of China’s first photojournalists, working for newspapers and magazines covering news and events, shooting fashion spreads and advertisements, and publishing art photography and pictorials in magazines.

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Yanbo Yaoting – photo by Chinese photographer Lang Jingshan.

When the China Photography Association was founded in 1928, Lang who was one of the first participants, began experimenting with more artistic work including nudes – which was a first in China. “Meditation”, which he shot in 1928, is considered the earliest surviving Chinese artistic nude photograph. This was followed by the publication of the ‘Album of Nude Photographs’ in 1930 – the first of it’s kind in China.

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Meditation – photo by Chinese photographer Lang Jingshan

After briefly experimenting with a modernist style, Lang developed a style he called “composite photography” (jijin sheying 集锦摄影), whereby he printed different parts of various negatives on the same sheet of paper, resulting in seamless landscapes, still lifes, and portraits following the composition and style of traditional Chinese ink painting.

Left: actress Li Hua; Right: Chiin-san Long. Photos by Lang Jingshan.
Left: actress Li Hua; Right: Chiin-san Long. Photos by Lang Jingshan.

After the communist takeover of mainland China, Lang followed the nationalist government to Taiwan where he continued to create ground-breaking photographic works. He also spent 42 years as the director of the re-established China Photography Association in Taiwan. Throughout the remainder of his life, Lang committed himself to teaching and promoting the idea of a Chinese style of photography until his demise in April 1995.