Image of boarding school in Canada wins World Press Photo

A haunting image of red robes hanging from crosses along a road, with a rainbow in the background, to remember children who died at a boarding school set up to assimilate Indigenous children in Canada, won Thursday the prestigious World Press Photo award. .

The image is part of a series by Canadian photographer Amber Bracken on the Kamloops boarding school for The New York Times.

“It’s the kind of image that is etched in the memory. It inspires a kind of sensory response,” Jury President Rena Effendi said in a statement. “I could almost hear the stillness of this photograph, a silent moment of global recognition of the history of colonization, no only in Canada, but worldwide.”

This isn’t the first time the Amsterdam-based competition has rewarded Bracken’s work. He won first prize in the Contemporary Issues category in 2017 for his footage of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in North Dakota.

His latest victory came less than a week after Pope Francis issued a historic apology to Indigenous peoples for “deplorable” abuses at Canada’s Catholic boarding schools and asked for forgiveness.

Last May, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Nation announced the discovery of 215 graves near Kamloops, British Columbia. It was the largest native boarding school in the country and the discovery was the first of many equally sinister locations detected across the country.

“So we started having, I guess, a copycat of some of the kids who went to those schools and didn’t come back,” Bracken said in remarks distributed by organizers. “There were also these little crosses by the side of the road. And I knew right away that I wanted to photograph the line of these crosses with the clothes of these little ones hanging to remember and honor these children and make them visible in a way that they hadn’t been in a long time. “

Indigenous peoples from other parts of the world won two other top prizes in the annual competition. Winners were chosen from 64,823 photographs and open-format works by 4,066 photographers from 130 countries.

“Collectively, the global winners pay homage to the past, while enabling the present and looking to the future,” said Effendi.

Australian photographer Matthew Abbott won Photographic History of the Year for a series of images for National Geographic/Panos Pictures documenting how the Nawarddeken community in West Arnhem Land, northern Australia, battles the fires by intentionally burning brush to remove fuel that could start larger fires.

In the Long-Term Project category, the work of Brazilian Lalo de Almeida was recognized for a series of photos for Folha de São Paulo/Panos Pictures entitled “Amazon Dystopia”, which shows the exploitation of the region, particularly in the indigenous communities forced to deal with environmental degradation.

At the previously announced regional awards, The Associated Press’ Bram Janssen won Asian Stories with a series about a Kabul cinema, and AP photographer Dar Yasin received an honorable mention for his work titled “Endless War” in Kashmir.

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

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