Xyza Cruz Bacani (Filipino, b. 1987) is a street and documentary photographer based in Hong Kong who uses her work to raise awareness about underreported stories. Having worked as a second-generation domestic worker in Hong Kong for almost a decade, she is particularly interested in the intersection of labor migration and human rights. She is currently working on her global project Modern Slavery, two chapters of which have been published in the New York Times Lens blog and other publications.
She is a Magnum Foundation Photography and Human Rights Fellow (2015), and a grantee of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the WYNG Media Award Commission (2017). The Open Society Moving Walls Grant will support a new body of work on the role of education in promoting peaceful coexistence amidst armed conflict in Mindanao, Philippines.
Xyza Cruz Bacani
According to the United Nations, there were 244 million international migrants in 2015. Three out of every four people who migrate across international borders do so for employment. Yet once abroad, many of these labor migrants—tens of millions—only find low-paying, temporary, and informal work.
Migrant workers are like air, invisible but necessary. Although vital to the socio-economic success of society, they are often treated as lower-class minorities. In many countries, labor migrants are unprotected by local labor laws and vulnerable to exploitation by employers. In extreme cases, they fall victim to trafficking. Having been promised high-paying jobs or other appealing opportunities by recruiters, employers, or contractors, they end up in abusive or exploitative situations through force, fraud, or coercion.
For the past few years, I have used photography to magnify the voices of various labor trafficking survivors—from teachers to managers to domestic workers—in a variety of cities across the globe. The photographs in this exhibition feature survivors in Hong Kong and the New York metropolitan area.
I aim to challenge the stigma and stereotype of “helpless” victims, by focusing on the daily lives of survivors and highlighting those who take great risks to escape exploitation and speak out against the abuse they and others have endured. By joining protests and sharing their experiences, these survivors spread awareness and encourage others to seek help and fight for justice.
—Xyza Cruz Bacani, October 2017