A child’s-eye view of Turkey’s refugee communities

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Photographer Serbest Salih was in his early 20s when he fled an Isis offensive in his residence nation of Syria for a brand new life in Turkey. In 2017, after working as a humanitarian photographer, he started working Sirkhane Darkroom with Turkish photographer, Emel Ernalbant. The challenge runs analogue photography workshops for kids, typically refugees, dwelling in and round Mardin, southestern Turkey. “Analogue photography is a universal language: no matter where a child comes from, they are able to express themselves,” says Salih.

Less than 30km north of the Syrian border, and never removed from Iraq, Mardin has seen an inflow of refugees fleeing instability and persecution within the area. The refugees are sometimes positioned amongst low-income Turkish communities within the far-flung suburbs of the historic metropolis. Conditions could be harsh, and kids discover themselves rising up round violence and poverty.

Salih, who’s now 28, hopes his pictures workshops will present a secure house for refugee and deprived youngsters to discover, be taught and inform their very own tales via pictures. They additionally foster communication and tolerance between Mardin’s various cultures, which embody Assyrians, Iraqis, Kurds and Turks.

İbrahim, 13. Image from ‘i saw the air fly’ by Sirkhane DARKROOM (MACK, 2021)

(Courtesy the artist and MACK)

Muhaamed, 17. Image from ‘i saw the air fly’ by Sirkhane DARKROOM (MACK, 2021)

(Courtesy the artist and MACK)

Ibrahim, 14. Image from ‘i saw the air fly’ by Sirkhane DARKROOM (MACK, 2021)

(Courtesy the artist and MACK)

Rojin, 14. Image from ‘i saw the air fly’ by Sirkhane DARKROOM (MACK, 2021)

(Courtesy the artist and MACK)

At the workshops, the kids discover ways to shoot, develop and print their very own images. Salih additionally teaches them about visible image-making and composition methods, often over a three-month interval. Participants are then given a reasonable analogue digital camera to take photos with on their very own.

At first, the kids are baffled by the previous analogue cameras, based on Salih. But as quickly as they see a picture slowly showing on a sheet of pictures paper within the darkroom, they’re fascinated. “Many of them really believe at first that it’s a type of magic,” he says.

“Each time I begin working with a new group of children, I encourage them to take their cameras outside and explore their surroundings and imaginations,” says Salih. “The children create stories, play out scenes, and really explore their imaginations within the space of the frame. I see how photography opens up a world of spontaneity, fun and magic. These photographs show the world of the children as they truly see it: punctuated by play and surprise.”

In 2019, Salih took his darkroom on the highway, visiting villages alongside the Turkish-Syrian border. During the coronavirus pandemic, this cell challenge grew to become much more of a lifeline for kids in distant areas, missing in assets or cultural alternatives.

Zeynao, 13. Image from ‘i saw the air fly’ by Sirkhane DARKROOM (MACK, 2021)

(Courtesy the artist and MACK)

Sultan, 14. Image from ‘i saw the air fly’ by Sirkhane DARKROOM (MACK, 2021)

(Courtesy the artist and MACK)

Ilava, 10. Image from ‘i saw the air fly’ by Sirkhane DARKROOM (MACK, 2021)

(Courtesy the artist and MACK)

A choice of these photographs have now been revealed in a brand new ebook, i noticed the air fly, revealed by MACK. The title comes from the poem Celebrating Childhood by Syrian poet Adonis (“Many times / I saw the air fly with two grass feet / and the road dance with feet made of air,” it reads). Like the poem, the ebook celebrates the child’s-eye view, exhibiting us on a regular basis moments marked not by disappointment or grief, however by curiosity, play and love for his or her family and friends. Signs of warfare – fighter planes, UNHCR logos – seem within the periphery, a haunting reminder of the broader context of the fleeting, intimate photographs, which prioritise the emotional lives of the kids.

“These aren’t the photographs adults expect to see from children who have grown up surrounded by conflict; they aren’t photographs of trauma or sadness,” says Salih. “Instead, they are a testament to the resilience of the childhood imagination, the healing power of photography, and the enchanting perspective of childhood.”

i saw the air fly’ by Sirkhane Darkroom. MACK, £25, out now





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