World Press Photo was founded in 1955 and is known across the world for its annual photography contest. The winners are announced and displayed on their traveling exhibition, every year. This year marks the 65th edition of the contest, which received over 60,000 entries from more than 4,000 photographers. In addition to this, The World Press Photo Exhibition amasses over 4 million visitors in 100 different cities all across the world.
Winner of the Photo Contest: Kamloops Residential School
The exhibition focuses on showcasing photographs that highlight current and important stories. Without giving too much away, the global, winning piece is titled ‘Kamloops Residential School’ by Amber Bracken and was photographed for The New York Times.
It is about how the children who died at the Kamloops Indian Residential School are commemorated. The photo displays red dresses and shirts hung on wooden crosses, with behind them a dark, moody sky and a rainbow.
The dresses and shirts are a symbol to acknowledge the suffering thousands of children had to endure while in the residential school system in Canada. Schools part of this system operated from the 19th century to far into the late 20th century, and aimed to integrate Indigineous peoples into Western culture.
Additionally, students were forcefully removed from their homes, were given different names and were subject to abuse. The term cultural genocide is often used to describe the practices that happened in this school system.
Kamloops Residential School was the largest school in the system that dealt with children dying as a result of mistreatment, abuse and neglect. The dresses in this photo in particular were hung on the crosses as a result of the findings of over 215 unmarked graves on the school site last year.
The Photo Contest’s Main Themes
It can be seen that the main topics of the World Press Photo Contest are related to human beings. The topics regarding war and climate change have provided some of the best images according to the jury. The world is in a difficult situation and journalists are showing how people are living during times marked by wars and deforestation.
War is a topic that almost always appears in expositions like these. This is because journalists and photographers alike, find and are oftentimes inspired by stories and backgrounds that provoke a sense of empathy.
For example, Sodiq Adelakun visually highlights the fear of going to school for some people. The exhibition also shows that in Sudan there are protests as a result of a new government. During this protest seven people were killed and 140 were injured.
This exposition also spends considerable space showing the impact of the war in Ukraine. In the exposition you see people fighting and preparing for war. The fight started when Ukraine wanted to be in NATO, but Russia denied. Russian separatists responded by invading Ukraine.
The Exhibition’s Appeal
During the expositions it becomes clear that photographers find lots of histories that provide them to introduce people that are far away. Photographers not only tell the stories near where they are from, as some of these have crossed borders from where the photographers are based.
This also happens because when there is a human being that is being broken, it is much easier to find a story that appeals to the emotions of the individual attending the exhibition. This is one of the main reasons as to why the winning photographs from The World Press Photo Contest draws millions of visitors every year. It can be seen as the need to know what kind of stories are happening and rise from the hard moments people have had to endure over the last year.
Plan your Visit
The World Press Photo Exhibition 2022 is currently on display at Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, and can be visited until December 11th. More information can be found here.
Maartje Oenema & Asier Garmendia