Haunting Image of Crosses Near Canada Boarding School for Indigenous Children Wins World Press Photo

This image provided by World Press Photo which won the World Press Photo Of The Year award by Amber Bracken for The New York Times, titled Kamloops Residential School, shows Red dresses hung on crosses along a roadside commemorate children who died at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, an institution created to assimilate Indigenous children, following the detection of as many as 215 unmarked graves, Kamloops, British Columbia, 19 June 2021. (Amber Bracken for The New York Times/World Press Photo via AP)

A haunting image of red dresses hung on crosses along a roadside, with a rainbow in the background, commemorating children who died at a residential school created to assimilate Indigenous children in Canada won the prestigious World Press Photo award Thursday.

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

“It is a kind of image that sears itself into your memory. It inspires a kind of sensory reaction,” Global jury chair Rena Effendi said in a statement. “I could almost hear the quietness in this photograph, a quiet moment of global reckoning for the history of colonization, not only in Canada but around the world.”

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

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

“So we started to have, I suppose, a personification of some of the children that went to these schools that didn’t come home,” Bracken said in comments released by contest organizers. “There’s also these little crosses by the highway. And I knew right away that I wanted to photograph the line of these these crosses with these little children’s clothes hanging on them to commemorate and to honor those kids and to make them visible in a way that they hadn’t been for a long time.”

Indigenous peoples elsewhere in the world featured in two other of the annual competition’s top prizes. The winners were chosen out of 64,823 photographs and open format entries by 4,066 photographers from 130 countries.

“Together the global winners pay tribute to the past, while inhabiting the present and looking towards the future,” Effendi said.

Australian photographer Matthew Abbott won the Photo Story of the Year prize for a series of images for National Geographic/Panos Pictures that document how the Nawarddeken people of West Arnhem Land in northern Australia fight fire with fire by deliberately burning off undergrowth to remove fuel that could spark far larger wildfires.

This image provided by World Press Photo, part of a series titled Amazonian Dystopia, by Lalo de Almeida for Folha de Sao Paulo/Panos Pictures which won the World Press Photo Long-Term Project award,, shows Members of the Munduruku community line up to board a plane at Altamira Airport, in Para, Brazil, on 14 June 2013. After protesting at the site of the construction of the Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River, they traveled to the national capital Brasilia to present their demands to the government. The Munduruku community inhabit the banks of another tributary of the Amazon, the Tapajos River, several hundred kilometers away, where the government has plans to build further hydroelectric projects. Despite pressure from indigenous people, environmentalists and non-governmental organizations, the Belo Monte project was built and completed in 2019. (Lalo de Almeida for Folha de Sao Paulo/Panos Pictures/World Press Photo via AP)

The Long-Term Project award went to Lalo de Almeida of Brazil for a series of photos for Folha de São Paulo/Panos Pictures called “Amazonian Dystopia” that charts the effects of the exploitation of the Amazon region, particularly on Indigenous communities forced to deal with environmental degradation.

This image provided by World Press Photo, part of a series titled Amazonian Dystopia, by Lalo de Almeida for Folha de Sao Paulo/Panos Pictures which won the World Press Photo Long-Term Project award,, shows A member of the Quilombola community – an Afro-Brazilian community consisting of Black Brazilians, some of whom are descendants of enslaved peoples from the African continent – lies passed out drunk on a bench, in Pedras Negras, Sao Francisco do Guapore, Rondonia, Brazil, Jan. 29, 2021. The process of providing land deeds to communities started by former enslaved people was already slow before Jair Bolsonaro’s election. It has now stalled completely, as a result of the president’s resolve not to demarcate further land for such communities in the Amazon. (Lalo de Almeida for Folha de Sao Paulo/Panos Pictures/World Press Photo via AP)
In regional awards announced previously, Bram Janssen of The Associated Press won the Stories category in Asia with a series of photos from a Kabul cinema and AP photographer Dar Yasin earned an honorable mention for photos from Kashmir titled “Endless War.”

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

SOURCE: The Associated Press, Mike Corder

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