Photographs that shed light on the millions of female migrants kept out of public life

We Are Like Air © Xyza Cruz Bacani. All images courtesy of the artist and the Blue Lotus Gallery

The power of great art is to uncover and make us face uncomfortable truths. Such is the work of Filipino street photographer and documentary photographer Xyza Cruz Bacani.

Her breathtaking black and white images have recently focused on migration: as pressing an issue as ever. Since the UN estimates some “100 million women have left their home countries because of violence, poverty, and lack of opportunity.

These women are for the most part hidden from public life, working in kitchens, nurseries, farms, or brothels. Bacani is looking to change that with her series We Are Like Air, which gives the inside story on migration.

© Xyza Cruz Bacani

© Xyza Cruz Bacani

“I want to shed light onto our private lives and by doing so, to help the reader see domestic helpers as individuals, who deserve understanding and respect, and not just as people hired to perform menial, routine tasks,” says the photographer.

“I want to tell our story as champions, not just victims on both sides of the migration divide. We Are Like Air because migrant workers are often treated like air; important and unseen.”

The series is one close to the Magnum-awarded photographer’s heart, having grown up without her mother, who was a migrant worker in Hong Kong.

Bacani joined her mother aged 19, working in Hong Kong as a nanny and taking photographs using a camera bought with a loan from her employer.

© Xyza Cruz Bacani

© Xyza Cruz Bacani

© Xyza Cruz Bacani

© Xyza Cruz Bacani

She now works as a photographer full time, and has covered events such as the 2014 Hong Kong protests in Central, and documented the lives of other domestic helpers at Bethune House Migrant Women's Refuge in Jordan, Hong Kong.