“Hi, what’s your name?” Xyza cheerfully asked me as I approached her on the podium. I gave her my nickname, “Macee.” She looked at me with a puzzled expression and said, “Pahirap na ng pahirap ang pangalan ng kabataan ngayon,”(The names of teens nowadays are becoming more and more difficult to spell.) Then we both laughed. I spelled out my name for her and she wrote it down on a souvenir photo along with the words “Thank you,” and “XCB.”
It was in the news wherein I first heard about Xyza Cruz Bacani. She is a Filipino street photographer featured in the New York Times Lens Blog for her stunning black and white photos taken in Hong Kong, where she works as a domestic helper. I immediately sought the internet for more information about her and for a glimpse at her photos. Luckily, I found a poster announcing that Xyza will be tackling photography and sharing her experiences in an event entitled, “Through the Lens of Xyza Cruz Bacani.” The event was held last 26 July 2014 at the Senate of the Philippines. The office of Senator Sonny Angara sponsored the event, along with Fujifilm Philippines and Litratista sa Daan Street Photography Group.
Among the 200 attendees were students, photography groups, and amateur and professional photographers. In the talk, Xyza shared that she liked shooting alone during her free time. She explains that photography is therapeutic for her since she is not very vocal with her feelings. Also, shooting alone allows her to become more observant and helps her focus even on the tiniest details she wants to incorporate in her photos. A question was raised regarding what time of the day Xyza goes out to shoot. She said that at noon time, she usually has five to 15 minutes. Because of time constraints, the 27-year old photographer shared that she always brings a camera with her, and that she shoots every day. “Di bale nang may bitbit kang camera, kaysa mag-regret ka na may na-miss kang eksena,”(It’s better to bring your camera along with you, than regret that you’ve missed a scene) she added.
Because of Hong Kong’s chaotic setting, Xyza explained that the challenge of being a street photographer is how you will be able to frame and arrange a scene to tell a story without meddling with the people. Candid images stir emotion, and Xyza turns these simple moments into awe-inspiring photos. She described herself as a ‘fly on the wall,’ as she usually goes unnoticed when taking photos. But the streets of Hong Kong weren’t always a safe haven as Xyza shared that there are people who do not want their photos taken, and sometimes, they even tell her to delete their photos. The “ninja” photographer turns to her earphones for protection when faced with these encounters. “Kahit na sigawan nila ako, kunwari hindi ko naririnig,” (Even if they shout at me, I’ll pretend that I didn’t hear anything)she also added that there are also streets with scary dogs that she never braved to enter.
Xyza emphasized the importance of anticipation in street photography. This means that we have to be observant and aware of our surroundings and the possibility of a story to share. Aside from the architecture-filled streets of Hong Kong, Xyza is now exploring the colorful boulevards of the Philippines as well. She believes that Filipino photographers are very talented, and hopes that we will have nationwide photography collective soon. Although most of us are unaware of it, bullying also happens in photography wherein criticism becomes harsh and unwelcoming to the newbies. Xyza herself has experienced this so she tells us, “There should be no stereotyping in photography. “Lahat tayo dumaan sa pagiging newbie.” (We all went through being a newbie [in photography]) Criticize in a way that you can inspire, instead of destroying them.”
The event ends with a raffle wherein Instax cameras and books authored by Filipino photographers were given away to lucky winners. A meet-and-greet followed shortly which the attendees took as an opportunity to take photos with Xyza and have her autograph photo prints, and even lens filters. Senator Angara was also present during the event.