Life in mono

Peter Fenech

An interview with iconic street photographer Xyza Cruz Bacani

Street photography appeals to so many photographers, because the key subjects are those we see everyday – they make up our world and so resonate with viewers of all ages, cultures and walks of life. Expert photographer Xyza Cruz Bacani knows just how to capture the atmosphere of the perfect moment and has built an enviable reputation as a major force in the street photography scene. We sit down with Xyza to talk about her story, inspiration and unique vision.

How did you first get into photography?

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When I was young, I was interested in art but I did not know how to paint. I got my first camera in 2009 when I discovered photography. I used it to take photos and it was a way for me to show my mother the different scenes in HK.

 What first attracted you to street and documentary photography?

Life in mono
An empty road blocked by the demonstrators. Connaught Road is one of the busiest roads in Central Hong Kong during normal days.












I’m always interested in people. What makes us humans, our differences and similarities. Photography is universal language that everyone can understand.

 What are the biggest challenges in street photography?

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When I do street photography, I’m an outlier. The challenge is to get that good photo that makes me happy and say that I can go home now.

Do you ever ask permission from your subjects?

Life in mono
Police officers barricading the streets of Central Hong Kong. The umbrella revolution is the protest that changed the political status of Hong Kong. It started when the younger generation demanded universal suffrage and democracy from Mainland, China. It began the day of September 28,2014 and lasted for 79 days.















In documentary photography, consent is very important. I need to establish trust between me and the person I’m photographing.

What techniques do you use?

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For street photography, I’m a “blind shooter”. I rarely use the viewfinder. It helps me in getting the most candid images.

 How much editing do you do to your images?

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I shoot raw in colour and jpeg black and white together. My Fujifilm cameras allow me to do that. If not, I just turn the files to black and white if it suits the image. I do not move pixels (photoshop).

 What’s been your favourite project/series to date?

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My ongoing global project, “We Are Like Air”. It is focused in the intersection of labour and human rights. I am also currently working on a project, “Education as a weapon” .

 What advice would you give to people looking to get into this field?

Find the “why” in what you’re doing and the how will be less hard. Stay Curious, keep asking questions and find the answers to these questions.

 What advice do you have for exhibiting and promoting your work?

Find a gallery that respects and understands you as an artist. Communication is a key. As a photographer, protect your copyrights and integrity.

How do you ensure your work stands out as a street and documentary photographer?

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I do not think of that. I shoot what moves me. Thinking about standing out is not good for the ego. Ego ruins creativity.

A lot of your work has quite a moody feel, with strong blacks and high contrast. Was this deliberate or has it evolved naturally?

It evolved naturally. HK is very grey and moody. Lately, I’ve been working more in colours. It really depends in the story or the character of the city I’m in.

What is the hallmark of a great street or documentary image in your view?

A good documentary for me creates an impact. A good street photo creates more questions.

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Find out more about Xyza by visiting her website at www.xyzacruzbacani.com

or visit her Instagram account or Facebook page

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