Haunting Canada boarding school shot wins World Press Photo

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A haunting image of red dresses hung from crosses along a roadside, with a rainbow in the background, commemorating children who died at a school established to assimilate Indigenous children in Canada, the prestigious World Press Photo award on Thursday.

The image was one of a Kamloops Residential School series shot by Canadian photographer Amber Bracken for The New York Times.

“It’s a kind of image that sears itself in your memory. It elicits a kind of sensory response,” Global jury chair Rena Effendi said in a statement. “I could almost hear the stillness in this photo, a quiet moment of global reckoning for the history of colonization, not just in Canada but around the world.”

It was not the first recognition for Bracken’s work in the Amsterdam competition. She won first prize in the Contemporary Issues category of the 2017 contest for images of protesters at the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.

Her latest victory came less than a week after Pope Francis made a historic apology to indigenous peoples for the “deplorable” abuses they suffered in the Catholic residential schools in Canada and they begged for forgiveness.

Last May, the Secwepemc Nation Tk’emlups announced the discovery of 215 graves near Kamloops, British Columbia. It was Canada’s largest Indigenous residential school, and the discovery of the tombs was the first of numerous, similarly grim sites across the country.

“So we started to get, I think, personification of some of the kids who went to these schools who didn’t come home,” Bracken said in comments from the contest’s organizers. ‘There are also those little crosses along the highway. And I knew right away that I wanted to photograph the line of these crosses with these little children’s clothes attached to it to commemorate and honor those children and make them visible in a way that they weren’t for a long time. †

Indigenous peoples elsewhere in the world were part of two other top prizes of the annual competition. The winners were chosen from 64,823 open-format photos and submissions by 4,066 photographers from 130 countries.

“Together, the global winners pay tribute to the past as they inhabit the present and look to the future,” said Effendi.

Australian photographer Matthew Abbott won the Photo Story of the Year award for a series of photos for National Geographic/Panos Pictures documenting how the Nawarddeken people of western Arnhem Land in northern Australia fight fire with fire by deliberately cutting undergrowth. fires to remove fuel that cause much larger wildfires.

The award for the long-term project went to Brazil’s Lalo de Almeida for a series of photographs for Folha de São Paulo/Panos Pictures called “Amazonian Dystopia”, which charts the effects of exploitation of the Amazon basin, particularly on indigenous communities forced to deal with environmental degradation.

In previously announced regional awards, Bram Janssen of The Associated Press won the Stories in Asia category with a series of photos from a cinema in Kabul, and AP photographer Dar Yasin received an honorable mention for photos from Kashmir titled ‘Endless War’.

Yasin won the Pulitzer Prize 2020 along with Mukhtar Khan and Channi Anand in feature films for their coverage of the war in Kashmir.

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