For shooting subjects that matter to shining a much-needed light on human rights issues, get to know these photographers from our Gen.T list

Following the unveiling of the 400 honourees of the Gen.T List 2020, we're profiling five photographers in the region who are making a difference through the images that they create and capture.

A picture paints a thousand words––a phrase that we've often heard. Thanks to globalisation and the power of social media, we're able to see the world through someone else's lens. At the forefront of delivering these undiscovered stories are photographers. Armed with their cameras, these visual storytellers shine a light into stories, places and issues that we cannot personally see and experience.

Their images serve as a conduit for unheard voices and provide a platform to spark conversations about the most pressing issues that shape our region––from human rights issues, climate crisis, connections between diverse cultures, and underreported news that amplify real-life experiences.

Given the need to further document what's happening in our current landscape especially with an ongoing pandemic, the works of these photographers are more important than ever, so we're giving you more insight into the leaders who are shaping the way we see the world.

See also: Hong Kong Photographer Stanley Chung On Tracing The Steps Of His Father, James Chung

Nadirah Zakariya

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Often photographers shy away from the camera, opting to be behind the lens rather than in front of it, but Nadirah Zakariya breaks the norm. This visual artist's powerful photographs focus on a range of subjects—including herself––creating captivating self-portraits that hightlight her own skin condition, vitiligo which causes patches of pigment loss.

Hailing from Malaysia, she first discovered photography when she was 17 years old in a small town in Japan. Now forging an impressive career in New York, Zakariya's photographs speak of her upbringing as a multicultural creative, flauting images that are as eclectic as her diverse geographical background.

More than just capturing subjects that matter, she also encourages others to do the same through projects like the Two Mountains Photography series and hosting masterclasses that help budding photographers. With such a portfolio, her photographs have been published in Vice, Vogue Italia and The New York Times. Her work reminds us not only to love ourselves but also bring the need for skin positivity to the global community.

See also: Artist Jenny Saville Takes Us Inside Her Studio And Reveals Insights Into Gender Equality

Ezra Acayan

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The work of Filipino documentary photographer Ezra Acayan focuses on social issues and human rights, his most notable one highlights the effects and suffering of the Filipino people caused by the Philippine government's notorious war on drugs. The powerful and striking images he has captured on the issue appeared in numerous international outlets and also received a special merit at the Human Rights Press Awards.

He also has several other awards and recognitions under his belt including Photographer of the Year at the International Photography Awards in 2017 and Young Photographer of the Year at the Istanbul Photo Awards 2018. The same work that covered the drug war was also exhibited in Geneva, France and Germany

In 2019, he received a World Press Photo Award in the Spot News category. He is also an Ian Parry Scholarship and Lucie Foundation grantee. Formerly a wire photographer for Reuters, Acayan began shooting professionally at just 17 years old. Since then, he has done work for various media outlets including Agence French-Presse, Deutsche Presse-Agentur and French Society Magazine. He currently works for Getty Images, based in the Philippines.

See also: Explore Gender Beyond The Binary Through The Lens Of Chinese Photographer, Luo Yang

Gabriel Mejia

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Gabriel Meija wears a lot of hats––a visual storyteller, a photographer and the co-founder of Youth Engaged in Wetlands, dedicated to conserving wetlands around the world. This conservation photographer and emerging environmental filmmaker have covered stories on nature, wildlife, the climate crisis and the indigenous people. As co-founder and head of communications of Youth Engaged in Wetlands, he works with youth leaders to protect ecosystems. But it doesn't stop there.

At the WWF National Youth Council, Meija aims to conserve endangered species and educate young people on various issues such as plastic pollution. As a contributor to the National Geographic Your Shot, he documented a number of incredible stories, from the receding glaciers of Patagonia to the critically-endangered dwarf buffalos. Adding to his impressive portfolio is a documentary on wild foxes which premiered in 2019 and has also presented stories in several TEDx talks.

As if all of these aren't enough, Meija is also a weekly writer for an environmental column in The Manila Times and is currently pursuing a civil engineering degree in the University of the Philippines aiming to become an environmental engineer that integrates art and science.

See also: The Woman And The Sea: Female Free Divers Take Conservation To New Depths

Hannah Reyes Morales

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A photographer and National Geographic explorer, Hannah Reyes Morales tell reflective and intimate stories. Documenting tenderness amidst adversity including forced marriages in Cambodia and the toll of the Philippine government's work on drugs, her photographs provide a touching and genuine look at how resilience is embodied in daily life.

It's no surprise that her work has been featured in countless international media outlets. She is also part of the non-profit World Press Photo's 6/6 global talent programme, one of the UK Royal Photographic Society's 100 Photographic Heroes and was even named a cultural leader by the World Economic Forum and gave a speech during its ASEAN Forum about the portrayal of women in the media.

More recently, she was awarded the 2019 Tim Hetherington Visionary Award and the 2020 ICP Infinity Award for Documentary Practice and Visual Journalism. Currently based in Manila, Reyes Morales' work further explores the universal themes of diaspora, survival and bonds that tie humanity together––sparking a sense of inspiration, hope and triumph among those who look at her photographs.

See also: See How The Cities Across America Are Changing During Covid-19 Through Matthew Johnson's Lens

Xyza Cruz Bacani

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Xyza Cruz Bacani's story serves as an inspiration for many. Starting out as an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) in Hong Kong, Bacani is now an internationally acclaimed photographer. During her time as a second-generation domestic helper in the city for almost a decade, Bacani spent her holidays traversing the city, snapping photos with her camera. What was once just a simple hobby soon launched her unstoppable career––and rightfully so.

Bacani uses her work to raise awareness on underreported stories such as the intersection of labour migration and human rights––no doubt inspired by her own personal experiences. In 2015, she is one of the Magnum Foundation Photography and Social Justice Fellows and since then, has won several awards in photography and had exhibitions locally and overseas.

Several other recognitions she received include The Outstanding Women of the Nation's Service in the field of Humanities, one of the Asia 21 Young Leaders (Class of 2018), one of BBC's 100 Women of the World 2015, Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2016 and a grantee of the Pulitzer Prize. She is also a Fujifilm Ambassador as well as the author of We Are Like Air.

See also: How Former Domestic Helper Xyza Cruz Bacani Became A World Class Photographer

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