Do what you Love
Xyza Cruz Bacani
P U R P O S E I N L I F E
First I would like to congratulate you on the recent scholarship you won with the Magnum Foundation to attend NYU. Could you tell us a little bit more about what this means to you and how it will impact your photography?
It means a lot because it will be my first (formal) education in photography. There is this tiny voice inside me that sometimes says people don’t take my photography seriously because I am self taught, and I envy those who have a degree in photography. I still don’t know a lot about photography, especially technical stuff.
In the last few weeks, there have been a number of interviews about your scholarship, most of them with the heading “Domestic worker wins Magnum Scholarship…” Why do you think people respond so strongly to your previous profession?
Maybe because not all domestic workers like me are given the chance to pursue their dreams. Being a domestic worker is not an easy job. We suffer from human rights abuses and are regarded poorly by society. With my story, somehow it inspires people that no matter what you do, where you from or who you are, your dreams are valid.
Could you tell us a bit about how and why you decided to pick up a camera?
I wanted to be a painter but I don’t have the skill or talent, so when I discovered photography, I was overjoyed because I realized that I can create with it.
What are some of your influences and how have they impacted your photography?
Jonathan Van Smit, Elliot Erwitt, Rick Rocamora, Sim Chi Yin to name a few.
How would you describe your photography? Not just the genre, but why do you take pictures?
My personal photography is a visual diary of my feelings. My images usually reflect my emotions at that certain time. Photography for me is a need, more than just a want. If I am out shooting, I stop worrying. I am happy and I am free.
From your early pick up by the New York Times to the possibility of self education, it sounds like the Internet played a positive role in your development. Usually the Internet is blamed for things, but in this case it seems to have brought you a connection to other people that led to success. Could you talk about how the Internet was a resource for your photography?
I educate myself by watching and reading free stuff from Internet. I learned the basics from one of your video tutorials, Bridging the Gap. It connected me to great people. My closest friends, I met them through the Internet.
The choice to pursue photography is something that many people are afraid to do because they are not sure they can make money. Did you encounter any resistance when you decided to be a photographer and how were you able to over come it?
When I asked my mom if I could buy a camera, she said, “It’s only for rich people.” I felt rebellious during those times, but I understand her. For people like us, the need to survive is greater than the need to do art. I’m slightly stubborn; when people say I can’t do it, I will do all my best to be able to do it. I like challenges.
While there have been a number of feature stories that look at “Domestic Workers,” you have a opportunity to come at the subject, not as an observer, but as an experienced worker and photographer. How do you feel that your personal experience sets your work apart from the journalist trying to understand that world from the outside?
I am one of them, so they relate more. The images I took of them are more honest, more real because the intimacy is greater. There are no presumptions, they show me their real self, because they know that I know and experienced what they are going through.
Up until this point, attending a photography program has not been a practical option for you, what are you looking forward to with the prospect of spending all of your time dedicated to developing your craft?
I want to know all the stuff I need to know. I crave for education, I want to learn the business side of photography so I can find ways to support my family while doing what I love.
In other interviews you have said that you would like your photography to help people and that it would be useful to society. Could you explain why this is important to you?
It gave me a purpose in life. One of the best things about living is when you realize what is your purpose, and I found mine. I want to serve people and the best way I can do that is by using my photography to raise awareness about issues I care about. Awareness brings change and photography is a powerful tool to plant the seeds of awareness.
What are you most looking forward to when you come to New York to start the program?
I’m looking forward to meeting my co-fellows in the program, the people behind the Magnum Foundation and Susan Meisales. She is my superstar.
Thank you Xyza! We look forward to her arrival in New York City and welcoming her to the next steps in her career. To see more of her work: http://www.xyzacruzbacani.com
Do you know someone who took a chance on a dream and is doing what they love? Drop us a line if you have a story that you would like to see featured…