Syrian photographer Serbest Salih has set up a mobile photography school that introduces vulnerable Syrian, Iraqi, and Turkish children to analog photography.
Currently based in southeast Turkey, Salih is a 27-year old photographer and the director of Sirkhane Darkroom, a mobile analog photography school currently active in Mardin Istasyon, an impoverished neighborhood in Turkey which is close to the border of Syria. It is run in collaboration with Sirkhane Social Circus School.
Although the area is beautiful, it has been affected by war and violence which has had a tremendous effect on children in particular. To try and make a change in young people’s lives, Salih’s photography school aims to give kids an opportunity to learn how to “create beauty and joy out of the darkness of their past and present.”
“Photography as a pedagogic method, enables children to, first of all, know themselves better,” Salih tells PetaPixel. “It is an incredible and effective method of teaching children coming from difficult conditions, new ways of thinking, creativity, and being playful while expanding their perspective of their surroundings.”
Salih set up the school in 2017 in the Istasyon district of Turkey, but soon realized that the project needed to go mobile in order to provide its services to more kids in need. In 2019, he went fully mobile by using a caravan that was turned into a darkroom. The program is set up to visit a new location every three months.
The decision to teach analog and not digital photography came down to Salih’s belief that this type of photography is more tactile. Each roll and image requires careful consideration which he believes cultivates imagination. He says that learning to work with film also enables children to better understand the photographic process from start to finish.
In addition to learning photography, Salih says the children in the program also develop other life skills such as socializing, improved physical coordination and concentration, and it gives them a tool to help express their thoughts and emotions in a meaningful way.
The project has successfully worked with numerous children from impoverished areas and needs to continue to raise funds for equipment and materials to ensure it can provide sufficient photography tuition going forward.
Image credits: All images courtesy of Serbest Salih and used with permission.