Sirkhane Darkroom: An Analogue Project For Children


For photographer Serbest Salih, analogue photography helps children to get to know themselves better. It gives young people the opportunity to develop life skills, such as group dynamics, adopting universal values, improving coordination and concentration, therefore developing a healthy personality and healthy social communication skills. "It’s very important to teach children new ways of thinking, creating and playing while expanding their social environment." This encouraged him to create Sirkhane Darkroom, which aims to teach children affected by war and violence the magic of analogue photography.

Photos courtesy of Serbest Salih / Sirkhane Darkroom

Hello! Could you tell us more about how you started the analogue photography workshop, Sikhane Darkroom?

In 2017, Emel Emalbant (whom I worked for as an assistant) and I created this project. For 8 months in Istasyon (one of Mardin districts), the project belonged to a German NGO, Welthungerhilfe. They handed over the project to Sirkhane (Art Anywhere Association), and I took over the project as its director. I decided to make it bigger, to reach out to children in Nusaybin who were affected by war and violence. I set up a workshop and now I have a container, which I’m planning to set up as a Flying Darkroom. I want to help the children who are in need, discover their talents, and support them.

Photos courtesy of Serbest Salih / Sirkhane Darkroom

What is the aim of your workshops?

The aim of the workshop is “giving the words to the children” through photography.

  • Black and White photography techniques and adequate information teach children to use photography as a means of expression.
  • Children will be introduced to photo-journalism/photo-Interview/documentary style of photography, to guide them into capturing the environment they live in, in their own themes and styles.
  • Children will be provided with the right relationship and communication skills among themselves and between us.
  • Children will be supported to take steps to explain their experiences, testimonies, feelings, and thoughts by using the language of the images.
  • Children will get help for producing in the direction of their own unique structure.

They are quite interested in analogue photography as self-expression. I remember once when one of the children who attended the workshop put the photo paper to the developing tub, and then, when the image appeared, he said, “Bismillah!”, he thought it’s magic. When we go out for photoshoots, they are keen on using their imagination. The results are brilliant!

Photos courtesy of Serbest Salih / Sirkhane Darkroom

How is it like teaching analogue photography to children?

Nowadays, children have no idea about analogue photography and that it comes before digital photography. If you want to teach children photography and consider it as a career in the future, you should start with analogue photography. Seeing children learn photography and getting the chance to express themselves motivates me to continue this workshop and make it bigger.

Could you tell us about your photography background?

I studied photography in Aleppo in Syria and worked as a photographer with NGOs for years, but had to flee Aleppo in 2014. After working as a volunteer I saw an opportunity to set up a darkroom with Sirkhane, a circus school which works with refugees on the Turkish/Syrian border.

Photos courtesy of Serbest Salih / Sirkhane Darkroom

You're currently involved with Flying Darkroom, a fundraising campaign. Could you tell us more about it?

It's a mobile photography workshop — a darkroom inside the container. With Flying Darkroom I’m planning to reach all vulnerable children in all cities and villages of Turkey, especially in villages. There are a lot of them deprived of their rights and they don't have opportunities. Now I’m running three workshops and there is no funding and we always need darkroom photography equipment, material, and printing. We need support to renovate the flying darkroom and take it from place to place, so I opened a fundraising campaign.

I believe photography is a powerful tool for self-expression, especially for children who have had to leave their homes and maybe suffering post-traumatic stress from their experiences. On the darkroom’s funding page it says: “In the course of learning this art, the classes enable them to develop life skills such as social skills, adopting universal values to themselves and to their art, improving physical coordination and concentration. Also, the art of photography enables children to develop a healthy personality and gives them a tool, to express themselves in the most meaningful way in order to be a productive member of their society.”

Photos Taken by Children

Photos courtesy of Serbest Salih / Sirkhane Darkroom

To learn more about Sikhane Darkroom 's Flying Darkroom fundraising project, please visit this page.



  1. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    Working also with children to teach them analog photography and processing, I know how rewarding it is to teach this to such enthusiastic and creative young people! Congrats for your work and those of the children and keep on the good work! :)

  2. schwarzesauge
    schwarzesauge ·

    amazing photos from gifted photographers!

  3. hervinsyah
    hervinsyah ·

    Pure 💞👧

  4. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    Wonderful article, project!!

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