The art of Xyza Bacani

MANILA, Philippines – A lot of extraordinary moments can be found hiding within the hours of everyday life. Xyza Bacani, a Filipina overseas worker in Hong Kong, knows this all too well.

Bacani is a domestic helper by day but on her time off, the 27-year-old roams the streets of Hong Kong, taking photographs of life in the busy city and sharing them with the world through her blog. Her photos have been published in the New York Times and other foreign publications.

Bacani's distinct style of documenting the city’s daily grind is striking and her undeniable skill has not gone unnoticed.

In fact, her work has helped her secure a slot in the Magnum Foundation Human Rights Fellowship in New York City.

Bacani is among the numerous Filipino photographers whose peeks into the ordinary day are featured in “Unpredictable…Unscripted,” a street photography exhibit held in the University of the Philippines, Diliman’s Vargas Museum from February 5- 28.

The exhibit, curated by award-winning photographer Rick Rocamora, features Filipino street photographers from all over the globe – some with day jobs who, like Bacani, moonlight as photographers and pursue their passion after-hours.

Featured in “Unpredictable… Unscripted” are snippets of everyday life, all shot and framed from different points of view. Photos in the exhibit will take you to the streets of Quiapo in one shot, and Cambodia in the next, tagging you along the Filipino diaspora to see life through the lens of fellow countrymen living in their homes away from home.

Particularly enticing about the pictures are the photographers’ knack for subtle elements through which they show their talent for turning seemingly ordinary moments into extraordinary shots. 

According to Rocamora, street photography also requires being at the right place and catching – through one's camera – the right time. 

Perhaps this is why Rocamora has chosen to describe it as unpredictable – photographers in the field “have to commune with the elements of the street without disrupting the scene because of our presence, be prepared to handle the consequences of our subjects’ reactions, and most importantly, be alert to those nuggets of the extraordinary.”

In Rocamora’s opening message, the renowned photographer revealed that the idea for the exhibit first came in 2012, when he discussed the possibility of mentoring photographers online with journalist Howie Severino.

Although the initial plan did not push through, Rocamora continued to search for promising lensmen through social media – monitoring and guiding individuals whose work had caught his eye. Eventually, his efforts to reach fellow Pinoy photographers from around the globe paid off, resulting in the exhibit, which includes 17 photographers and 40 photos shot from places as far as California and Kuwait.

Bacani, who he met for the first time last week after 8 months of online mentoring,  described her experience under the tutelage of Rocamora as life-changing. She said that  “within eight months, binago niya life ko (he changed my life)”  and claiming that with Rocamora’s help, she is now more able to explain her work to other people.


Here is a preview of some of the photos on display at the exhibit:

Bacani says the recurring theme in this exhibit is "light, geometry and solitude."

The exhibit is open to the public until February 28. – Rappler.com