A Canadian Photographer Won A Global Contest For This 'Haunting' Image Taken In BC

Judges said the photo represents "the awakening of a shameful history that is finally being addressed in Canada."

Calgary Staff Writer
Dresses hanging on wooden crosses at the site of the Kamloops Residential School.

Dresses hanging on wooden crosses at the site of the Kamloops Residential School.

A photographer from Edmonton has won the World Press Photo of the Year for a picture taken at the site of a residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

Amber Brack, a freelance photographer, said she was "thrilled" that the photo had won the title and gave thanks to the Indigenous communities who "honour their missing children."

The photo shows red dresses hung from crosses at a roadside to commemorate the children who died at the Kamloops Residential School.

The school, which was established in 1890, was one of the largest residential schools in the system. It was attended by hundreds of Secwépemc and other First Nations children before it closed in 1978. Last year, surveys of the area identified as many as 215 possible burial sites at Kamloops.

Judges called the photo "haunting, arresting, and symbolic", and said it represents "the awakening of a shameful history that is finally being addressed in Canada".

"The sensory image offers a quiet moment of reckoning with the global legacy of colonization and exploitation, while amplifying the voices of First Nations communities who are demanding justice. The single image requires an active eye, and encourages us to hold governments, social institutions, and ourselves accountable," they added.

Brack also shared words from Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc chief Roseanne Casimir, "My thoughts and prayers to those who erected the crosses with little children’s clothing after the announcement of 215 unmarked graves [...] That grave photograph captured the dark reality that they were children."

"Congrats to the photographer for capturing and sharing this picture of the grave reality with world," they added.

In another tweet, Brack said: "I'm keenly aware this photograph could not exist without the hard work of the community to heal, to search, to recount their stories, to honour their missing children. The traumas of Residential Schools are not mine, but their legacy is a shared history that calls us to action."

This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society Emergency Crisis Line is available across Canada 24/7. Those who may need support can call 1-866-925-4419.

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