‘Humans of Makati’

Pinay maid-turned-internationally acclaimed photographer depicts reality and art in photos

Text and photos by Catherine Abad and Dana Sioson

Beyond a great city are its people. As a flourishing multi-faceted city, Makati takes its corner stones from the people living, working, and interacting in it. Each individual – whether in the spotlight or behind the scenes – contributes to what Makati has become and what it will be. To recognize these people, international acclaimed photographer Xyza Cruz Bacani in partnership with Ayala Land and Make it Makati, captured the important element that makes up the city – the Humans of Makati. As the city’s very first project for the year 2016, Humans of Makati is a photo exhibit that presents diverse stories of hardship, laughter, and success. Taking pictures of prominent persons, chefs, drivers, students, businessmen, and more, Humans of Makati features how the present Makati is born. Unveiled by Bacani herself, the photo exhibit opened to public last January 29 at the Ayala Triangle Gardens. 32 individuals were featured in the photographs shot by Bacani, all sharing something about their life as a Makati resident. Based on the popular “Humans of New York”, Humans of Makati also depicts reality and art combined through Bacani’s photography. “Their stories are very relatable and in a subtle way they are all connected. If you read all the stories (captions under the photos) from the start, you can see that there is all connection,” Bacani explained in an interview.

Humble beginnings
Starting photography since 2009 while working as a migrant worker in Hong Kong, the Pinay photographer rose to fame when New York Times’ Lens Blog recognized her photos. Since then, Bacani was recognized in the distinguished list of BBC 100 Women of the World 2015, CNN, Magnum Foundation Human Rights Fellows 2015, and 30 Under 30 Women Photographers 2016. She was also commissioned to teach photography in New York University. But having her very first exhibit in the Philippines and also her first venture in colored photography, Bacani found the project challenging. “It’s very different because it’s not my comfort zone and then I need to be sensitive with light, composition and everything content wise,” she said. Despite of this, Bacani still viewed the project as one of her favorites. She said that it was an interesting venture since it’s a mix of street and documentary photography. Sharing her experience during the project, Bacani pointed  her most meaningful shot – a photo of a hanging rosary from a rear view mirror of a taxi, flanked by Victoria Court stickers.
“There is contrast, irony. The hanging of something catholic and religious and then beside it is something that is not approved by religion. So I like those small details that we usually ignore, but for me it’s beautiful,” she shared. Capturing the raw vibe of Makati, Bacani’s shots offered the public a peek on the raw and honest vibe of the city. With over 500, 000 people from business, entertainment, and government sectors, the stories told through the Humans of Makati photo exhibit are vibrant and rich as the city itself. “I’ve learned lessons about this project. I have learned that we are all the same – same in a sense that we have the same dreams, the same hope, the same fears, and that we are all fighting different battles in the same war,” Bacani said in conclusion.