Kamloops Residential School.” Photo: Amber Bracken/New York Times

By MARK LORENZANA

The annual World Press Photo Contest exhibit has returned to Mexico City for this year’s edition and will run through Oct. 2 at the Museo Franz Mayer. The opening of the exhibit coincided with the 36th anniversary of the museum, which was founded by German-Mexican financier, photographer and collector Franz Mayer in 1986 as a place to house his extensive art collection.

This year’s World Press Photo Contest exhibit, which opened on Friday, July 15,  showcases 122 photographs, which provide a variety of perspectives from all corners of the globe. Martha Echevarria, the curator of the exhibit, said that this year’s photographs present a diversity of interpretations: the effects of the climate crisis, civil rights movements and the preservation of indigenous practices.

“Afraid to go to School.” Photo: Sodiq Adelakun Adekola/ Agence France-Presse

Canadian photojournalist Amber Bracken’s picture, titled “Kamloops Residential School,” was named World Press Photo of the Year. The image, which Bracken shot for the New York Times, shows orange dresses hung on crosses along a road in commemoration of the children who died at the Kamloops Indian Residential School — an institution in British Columbia, Canada, created to assimilate indigenous children.

The picture was taken by Bracken in June of last year, following the discovery of at least 215 unmarked graves at the site of the former school, which closed in 1978.

Bracken, at a press conference on Thursday, July 14, at the Museo Franz Mayer, said that representation is important to her — both as a woman photojournalist who won this year’s contest, as well as being given the chance to tell the story of what happened to the indigenous students at the Kamloops Indian Residential School many years ago.

“Ukraine Crisis.” Photo Guillaume Herbaut/Agence VU

“Representation is important to me. I know for myself, I’ve looked up to plenty of men photojournalists — and excellent men photojournalists,” Bracken said. “It is something special to see yourself reflected at the highest levels, and I think that’s part of why World Press has worked so hard to diversify and be more inclusive. Obviously there’s more work to do to get a true representative winners’ group. But I think maybe younger women and photojournalists might just feel a little bit more inspired to see women up here on the stage.”

Bracken said that to be able to share stories of indigenous people — and other subjects — was an honor, but she cautioned photojournalists not to make the stories about themselves.

“I truly see photojournalism as art in service, so that it’s never really about me. It’s how I can serve the story,” Bracken said. “We have to resist the stories that we are photographing becoming objects. Because the humans in them are so much more than objects. As to the representation of indigenous stories, we all have indigenous communities, and they’ve all been harmed by colonial expansion. So seeing those stories represented and also some of them coming full circle, that it’s not all tragedy, it’s really inspiring to me.”

“The Flower of Time: Guerrero’s Red Mountain,” Photo: Yael Martínez/Magnum Photos

Yael Martínez, a Mexican photographer based in the administrative center of Taxco de Alarcón in the Mexican state of Guerrero — and who became a Magnum Photos Nominee member in 2020 — won the North and Central America Open Format category of the contest.  Martínez’s entry, titled “The Flower of Time: Guerrero’s Red Mountain,” is a series of textured photographs that documents the struggle that indigenous Mixtec poppy cultivators face in the coastal state of Guerrero. Martínez put scratches and pinpricks into prints of the photographs and then backlit them, to represent trauma as well as the process of scratching of the poppy flower during opium extraction.

The Museo Franz Mayer is located at Avenida Hidalgo 45 in Mexico City’s Centro Histórico.

The World Press Photo exhibit will be on display through Oct. 2 of this year. Visiting hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday to Friday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. General admission is 75 pesos.

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