Daniella Zalcman

Signs of Your Identity

This year’s winner of the Magenta Foundation’s Flash Forward “Bright Spark” Award is Daniella Zalcman, who divides her time between New York and London. Her work, rooted in a documentary tradition, focuses on the legacies of western colonization. She won the 2016 FotoEvidence book award for her project “Signs of Your Identity”, which addresses the legacy of the Canadian government’s Indian Residential School system.

In the 1840s, the Indian Residential Schools that were meant to assimilate young indigenous students into western Canadian culture. Government agents would take children from their homes as young as two or three and send them to church-run boarding schools where they were punished for speaking their native languages or observing any indigenous traditions, sexually and physically assaulted and , in some extreme instances, subjected to medical experimentation and sterilization. The last residential school closed in 1996. The Canadian government issued its first formal apology in 2008.

Zalcman’s multiple exposure portraits depict survivors who are still fighting to overcome the memories of their residential school experiences. These individuals are reflected in the sites where those schools once stood, in the government documents that enforced assimilation, in the places where First Nations people now struggle to access services that should be available to all Canadians. These are the echoes of trauma that remain even as the healing process begins.

Daniella Zalcman is a multiple grantee of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a fellow with the International Women’s Media Foundation and a member of Boreal Collective, which will be profiled in the next issue of Magenta. Her work regularly appears in The Wall Street Journal, Mashable and National Geographic. Her photos have been exhibited internationally, and select projects are represented by LUMAS and Subject Matter. She graduated from Columbia University with a degree in architecture in 2009.