Edmonton’s Amber Bracken took home first prize in the World Press Photo’s Contemporary Issues “stories” category for her coverage of the opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The 60th WPP contest selected winners from 80,408 images from 5,034 photographers from 125 different countries. The winning photos are chosen by a jury of experts.
Bracken has visited the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe several times, often camping on site, surrounded by as many as 8,000 people who flocked to the area to protest the Dakota Access pipeline.
“I was curious about the idea of ‘why you?’ Obviously this is an important moment, there’s a little bit of momentum here, but why did you specifically answer the call?” she told Global News.
“I met students who put their education on hold to come for who knows how long. I met people who had kids at home who they made arrangements for. I met people who brought their kids. I met people who quit their jobs. I met people who were commuting like 20 hours in a weekend just to be present,” Bracken said.
Her work has been featured by a number of news outlets, including Buzzfeed, MacLeans and The Globe and Mail.
Bracken herself witnessed between 10 and 15 “actions” or demonstrations. The majority of them, she said, were peaceful and spiritual.
“Every single time, they would pray before they left camp, they would pray before they started anything when they arrived at the location, there would be prayers throughout and they would always finish in prayer,” she said. “Two got violent. The one that got a little bit out of hand was a situation where police kind of interrupted what they had planned to do by blocking off the road they wanted to go down.
“They got there and there wasn’t prayer and immediately things escalated quickly.”
She also witnessed traditional ceremonies that were so sacred they cannot be photographed.
Watch below: For weeks the Standing Rock Sioux and environmentalists gathered to protest the Dakota Access pipeline. Edmonton photographer Amber Bracken was in North Dakota covering the protests and joined Shaye Ganam to share her experience.