The 2022 World Press Photo winner ‘sears itself into your memory’

Kamloops Residential School by Amber Bracken, Canada, for The New York Times

The prize for this year’s World Press Photo of the Year has been awarded to Amber Bracken for her photo of a memorial to children who died at a Canadian residential school, the Amsterdam-based organisation said on Thursday.

The photo shows red dresses hung on crosses along a roadside to commemorate children who died at the Kamloops Indian Residential School following the detection of as many as 215 unmarked graves.

Bracken told Nieuwsuur that it was a dark, gloomy day when she went to take the photos but that the sun broke through just as she reached the top of the rise.

‘It was like a fairytale. The clouds parted and a rainbow appeared above the valley,’ she said. ‘You don’t see it in the photo but the rainbow ended at the spot where the graves of the children were found. It was a sort of symbolic recovery after all sorrow and everything the community had gone through.’

‘It is a kind of image that sears itself into your memory, it inspires a kind of sensory reaction,’ said jury chairwoman Rena Effendi. ‘I could almost hear the quietness in this photograph, a quiet moment of global reckoning for the history of colonisation, not only in Canada but around the world.’

The photo story of the year award went to National Geographic photographer Matthew Abbot for his series of pictures showing Indigenous Australians strategically burning land to remove the build-up of fuel that feeds bigger blazes.

The World Press Photo Exhibition 2022 will premiere at De Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, April 15 before starting its global tour. The 2021 exhibition was shown at 66 locations in 29 countries.

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