Canada’s Indigenous Children’s Graves Wins Photo of the Year Award at World Press Photo 2022

An image captured by the photographer amber bracken of red dresses hanging on a road in Canada, in memory of 215 indigenous children whose remains were located in unmarked graves from a former school residence in Kamloops, run by the Catholic Church, today won the World Press Photo for Photograph of the Year.

The work of the Canadian photojournalist, published in the New York Timesshows some red dresses hanging on crosses along the way, in memory of students of the Residential School of Kamloops, province of British Columbia, and whose bodies were located last year in unidentified graves on former school grounds.

That boarding school, run by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, was one of many government institutions run by religious orders where Aboriginal children were forcibly interned and suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse as part of a “re-education” system to eliminate indigenous culture.

The president of the jury of the World Press Photo, rena effendiconsidered that Bracken’s work, awarded in the Photography of the Year category, is “a type of image that is engraved in the memory, inspires a kind of sensory reaction, almost letting the tranquility be heard, a serene moment of reckoning for the history of colonization, not only in Canada but throughout the world”.

Saving the forests with fire

In the category of Graphic Report of the Year, the award goes to a photographic work by the Australian photojournalist Matthew Abbott, published in National Geographicand that claims an ancient and cultural practice of indigenous Australians, which burn the bushes strategically to save the forests and control possible fires.

This fire management technique, known in English as “cool burning”, consists of burning only the brush and thus eliminating the accumulation of what would be a fuel that feeds larger flames.

The Nawarddeken population of the Arnhem Land region of Australia has practiced this technique for tens of thousands of years and understands fire as a tool to manage his homeland of 1.39 million hectares.

Rangers today combine traditional knowledge with contemporary technologies to prevent forest fires.

Photography by Matthew Abbott

Wear and tear in the Amazon rainforest

The Brazilian photojournalist Lalo de Almeida is the winner of the Long Term Project Award with his photographic work “Amazon Dystopia”, which “portrays something that not only has negative effects on the local community but also on a global level”, according to Effendi.

Almeida’s images they seek to denounce how the Amazon rainforest is under “a great threat” due to deforestationmining, infrastructure development and the exploitation of other natural resources, threats that are gaining momentum under the regressive environmental policies of the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro.

The Amazon, of extraordinary biodiversity, is home to more than 350 indigenous groups, but the devastation – accelerated since 2019, although it is not new – has a series of social impacts, particularly in the indigenous communities that are forced to deal with significant degradation of the environment and their way of life, notes the foundation.

Amazonian Dystopia, by Lalo de Almeida

seeds and biodiversity

The Open Format Award has been for a photographic documentary about the efforts of scientists and ancestral communities to conserve agrobiodiversity in Ecuador, and its author is the photojournalist Isadora Romero, who, in an interview with Efe, denounced the risk of “loss of cultural memory” with the reduction of this agricultural diversity.

Their photojournalism seeks to underline “how these two communities face the problem in different ways”: the scientists have a germplasm bank in Quito with more than 28,000 accessions of germplasm to generate strong seeds without genetic modifications, and communities have been doing this care work for generations.

To elaborate “Blood is a seed”, Romero worked with the community of Camuendo Chico, in the Ecuadorian province of Imbabura, and with scientists in Quito, to urge “turn your eyes to other forms of knowledge” and that there be “a bridge” between the work done by science and indigenous communities.

In addition to the 1,000 euro cash prize they receive as regional winners, these four photojournalists also they will obtain an additional 5,000 euros as an award for their work, that, in addition, will travel the world in different exhibitions, taking the denunciations reflected in their photographs beyond the country where they were published.

‘Blood is a Seed’, by Isadora Romero

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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