This mobile darkroom is serving underprivileged children in Southeast Turkey by teaching them photography skills

Millions of young Syrian refugees have resettled in the region and the program director has made his project mobile.

Serbest Salih's Flying Darkroom for refugee children
Serbest Salih's Flying Darkroom aims to bring photography to refugee children living in Southeast Turkey.Serbest Salih

A community darkroom in Southeast Turkey known as the Sirkhane Darkroom has initiated a traveling darkroom program to teach young Syrian refugees how to shoot, develop, and print their own photos. Turkish photographer Emel Ernalbant started the Sirkhane Darkroom under the Sirkhane Social Circus School back in 2017. Serbest Salih, a young Syrian photographer who escaped war himself, joined shortly after. For a time the project had a permanent home in Istasyon and Nusaybin. Unfortunately funding for the project ran out, but rather than shutter the program altogether Serbest Salih decided to make the darkroom mobile. The Flying Darkroom was born.

Students in the program shooting with film point and shoot cameras.
Students in the program shooting with film point and shoot cameras.Serbest Salih

“Photography as a pedagogic method, enables children to first of all know themselves better,” Salih explains. “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.”

Two students unroll their hand-developed negatives inside the darkroom.
Two students unroll their hand-developed negatives inside the darkroom.Serbest Salih

The Flying Darkroom is housed inside a mobile container and allows Salih to travel to villages and cities to teach the basics of analog photography. His students are between the ages of 8 to 18 and he says the majority come from Iraq, Syria, or Southeastern Turkey. For some of his students the darkroom classes are the only education they are receiving during this turbulent time in their lives. Although earlier versions of the program took place in a physical location, Salih says that Flying Darkroom will allow him to change locations every three months.

Salih is currently raising funds to keep his darkroom going. Donations help pay for the chemicals and equipment that are essential for darkroom photography.

ADVERTISEMENT