Türkiye Earthquake And The Sirkhane Darkroom

The earthquake in Türkiye on 6 February this year, the Sirkhane Darkroom has an added focus. Many children are depressed and traumatised.

By Christopher Osborne.



I am talking to Syrian photographer Serbest Salih via Zoom. When I last spoke to Serbest, I wrote that he projected a relaxed demeanour. Today, Serbest is projecting a sense of urgency. He is a man on a mission.

Serbest crossed from Kobane to Turkey as ISIS swept through Syria. He worked for several aid agencies before finding the Sirkhane. He joined the Sirkhane team and is now one of the principal figures behind this remarkable initiative.

The Sirkhane Darkroom was founded in 2017 and teaches children between 7 and 17 the principles of photography. They learn about types of cameras, and composition and are provided with point-and-shoot film cameras to make images. Then they are taught how to develop and print. They are also taught shown pinhole photography and how to create lumen prints.

Children are deliberately encouraged to work in pairs or small teams that break down barriers between Kurds, Arabs and Turkish families. Boys and girls are also encouraged to work together.

After the earthquake in Türkiye on 6 February this year, the Sirkhane Darkroom has found itself with an added focus. Damage to towns across Türkiye’s southeast has left many children depressed and traumatised. Serbest says that some towns are undamaged, whereas others are in such bad shape that the majority of the buildings require demolition.

Most importantly, the Sirkhane staff are trained in mentoring children, and photography is used as a platform to talk about child rights such as gender, child labour, child marriage, bullying and techniques for empowerment. As a result of the aftermath of the earthquake, an added emphasis is being placed on teaching children to manage their well-being.

Serbest and his team started running workshops by taking their caravan darkroom to these areas. They run two two-day courses each week. Right from the outset, the improvement in the mental state of the children was obvious. Being given a creative outlet to express their feelings about an event that was outside their control was providing benefits.

The Sirkhane Darkroom project is a not-for-profit organisation supported by donations and funds from the English organisation DoBeDO. Started as a home for filmmakers, photographers and independent publishing, this organisation is proudly the single largest supporter of the Sirkhane Darkroom.

The Sirkhane Darkroom needs help. There are two areas where you can make a difference.


Firstly, you can help by donating to the project. DoBeDo has created a GoFundMe appeal on behalf of the Sirkhane Darkroom. You can donate at https://gofund.me/ea55ef80

Give your time:

If you have the skills to help young people, then the Sirkhane Darkroom team would love to see you in Türkiye. Contact Serbest directly at serbestsalih@sirkhane.org

You can find more of the work of the Sirkhane Darkroom at @sirkhanedarkroom and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/flyingsirkhanedarkroom

There is an interview with Serbest Salih and a review of “I saw the air fly” in edition 13 of SilvergrainClassics magazine. You can buy a copy here https://shop.silvergrainclassics.com/magazines/silvergrainclassics-13

Images © Serbest Salih and the Sirkhane Darkroom 2023.

You might also be interested in the work that Chris Smith is doing with children in the UK. see https://silvergrainclassics.com/en/2023/02/chris-smith-and-photography-in-the-community/



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