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Edmonton photographer wins prestigious award for Standing Rock coverage

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WATCH ABOVE: Gord Steinke sits down with Amber Bracken to discuss her work and her award. – Feb 14, 2017

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.

READ MORE: Edmonton photographer describes covering Standing Rock and Dakota Access pipeline 

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.

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“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.

READ MORE: Donald Trump backs Dakota Access pipeline, memo shows

“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.”

near Canon Ball, North Dakota on Sunday, November 13, 2016. Courtesy: Amber Bracken, Rogue Collective
near Canon Ball, North Dakota on Sunday, November 20, 2016. Courtesy: Amber Bracken, Rogue Collective
near Canon Ball, North Dakota on Saturday, November 19, 2016. Courtesy: Amber Bracken, Rogue Collective
near Canon Ball, North Dakota on Sunday, November 13, 2016. Courtesy: Amber Bracken, Rogue Collective
near Canon Ball, North Dakota on Tuesday, November 22, 2016. Courtesy: Amber Bracken, Rogue Collective
Police stand on top of a barricade, north of pipeline opposition camps and Canon Ball, North Dakota on Monday, November 7, 2016. Standing Rock protestors, or water protectors, are settling in for the winter but are facing increasingly militarized responses from authorities. Courtesy: Amber Bracken, Rogue Collective
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near Canon Ball, North Dakota on Monday, November 14, 2016. Courtesy: Amber Bracken, Rogue Collective
A demonstrator, or water protector, sings and holds out his arms to show he is unarmed as police spray the crowd with water canons, despite temperatures below freezing, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota on Sunday, November 20, 2016. Many people gathered at the road blockade were injured when police deployed water canons, pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and percussion grenades. Courtesy: Amber Bracken, Rogue Collective
near Canon Ball, North Dakota on Sunday, November 13, 2016. Amber Bracken. Courtesy: Amber Bracken, Rogue Collective
near Canon Ball, North Dakota on Tuesday, November 15, 2016. Courtesy: Amber Bracken, Rogue Collective

She also witnessed traditional ceremonies that were so sacred they cannot be photographed.

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Bracken also shares many of her photographs on Instagram, Twitter and on her website.

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.

Click to play video 'Edmonton photographer covers Standing Rock and Dakota Access pipeline' Edmonton photographer covers Standing Rock and Dakota Access pipeline
Edmonton photographer covers Standing Rock and Dakota Access pipeline – Dec 12, 2016