Filipina nanny becomes acclaimed photographer thanks to social media

NEW YORK – Xyza Bacani, 28, is a domestic worker in Hong Kong, who says her purpose in life is to tell the stories of migrant workers through black and white still photography.

“Because I can relate to them, I’m one of them. I always say to people na this is my story, this is their story, and in a click of finger pwedeng story mo rin,” she said.

Bacani just finished a scholarship at New York University and is now documenting stories of human trafficking victims to be published in a major print outlet in the United States.

She said, “I like being close to people I photograph. I like knowing their daily activities, their dreams, their aspirations, their hopes. I like knowing that so I like being a documentary photographer.”

In 2006 when she was 19, Xyza dropped out of college and moved to Hong Kong to join her mother and work as a nanny for a well off Chinese-Australian family.

In her spare time, she explored the streets of Hong Kong with a camera she bought, thanks to a loan from her employer.

Little did she know that posting her work on social media would change her life.

Her captivating photos from Occupy Hong Kong were noticed. San Francisco photojournalist Ric Rocamora found her black and whites on social media, all using a point and shoot camera, and not a professional Digital Single Lens Reflex camera or DSLR.

“He asked me what do you do for a living, kasi feeling nga niya spoiled brat ako na nagsho-shoot lang. Then I told him I’m a domestic worker and he said — ‘Oh my God! I found the next Vivian Maier’,” according to Bacani.

After her story came out in the New York Times and CNN last year, she received the Magnum Foundation Fellowship for Human Rights scholarship last May.

“I’ve learned that there are lots of human rights issues in the world, that are under reported and unheard. We are very lucky to be in that position to tell those stories,” she said.

She is leaving the US for an exhibit about migrant workers in Hong Kong soon. But she says she will be back in the US for a scholarship, courtesy of The Missouri Photo Workshop, before going on assignment in Abu Dhabi.

“Ang dream ko lang mapauwi ko yung mommy ko. That’s why I’m really working hard because I want her to go home and be with my family,” she said.

A domestic worker no more, Xyza will then travel the world from Canada, Switzerland, and Turkey among other countries as a professional photographer making from $300 to more than $1,500 a day.

The Nueva Vizcaya native says she is also considering making the Big Apple her future home.

You may contact Don Tagala at for more information.

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