This September, Curator Katy Vetch and Dreweatts present SAHAR, a photographic exhibition showing framed photographs taken by and through the eyes of children. The children have been taking part in workshops run by Sirkhane DARKROOM, which is situated in the Turkish city of Mardin, a few miles from the Syrian border. When the children first see an image appearing from the photographic paper in the dim light of the darkroom, they often use the Arabic word for magic: SAHAR.
The exhibition runs from 3-8 September at Dreweatts London.
Sirkhane DARKROOM was set up in 2017 and is run by photographer Serbest Salih who is a Syrian Kurdish refugee. By teaching the basics of analogue photography and the process of developing and printing in the darkroom, Serbest’s aim is to help Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish refugee children integrate with Turkish children; encouraging them to share stories of where and how they live. Children who have endured war and traumatic experiences are given space to heal and make new friends.
The results are surprisingly joyful, ethereal, and informative of lives lived on the margins of society, but also through the optimism of a child’s eye. Serbest’s extraordinary project creates a ray of light out of the darkness. Sirkhane DARKROOM demonstrates the importance photography and darkroom printing can play in exploring experiences but also as a therapeutic tool. The process of printing in the darkroom is meditative, causing the printer to stop and think, to calculate composition, measure light and timing to produce images which present to the viewer the way one sees the world. In the uncertain and hectic lives of these displaced children, just for a while, the peace and quiet of the darkroom can make time stand still.
The prints to be shown were printed up in the Turkish darkroom from scratched and marked negatives which are by no means perfect due to the handling of many excited children in a dusty and chaotic makeshift space. Indeed, the work has been specifically framed to highlight the imperfections and the materiality of the well thumbed and uneven prints that bear witness to their origins.
The prints float on pristine white hahnemule paper in box frames so that they are acknowledged more as archival objects to be cherished rather than as merely prints on a flat surface. The idea being that perfection is not the goal, the goal is to show the audience how by giving young people the space and tools, they can demonstrate that they no longer want to be seen as victims but as children enjoying their lives along with their friends and family like any other children, and that they have the power to express the beauty and value of the world that they are living in rather than the negativity of it.
This exhibition highlights the vision and achievements of Serbest Salih in setting up this wonderful programme and it should be celebrated and in turn rewarded.
If you would like to donate, please proceed to the following link: support-sirkhane-darkroom — her yerde sanat derneği. There will also be an opportunity to donate during the exhibition. All the framed works will be on sale and the proceeds will be donated to Sirkhane DARKROOM for the purchase of more equipment and a new larger mobile darkroom than the existing basic caravan, to take to outlying villages where children are unable to reach the city of Mardin.
During the exhibition a film made by Lily Vetch and the children of Sirkhane DARKROOM which was shot whilst on a visit with Katy Vetch to Turkey in May 2022 will also be on show.
Dreweatts London, 16-17 Pall Mall, St James's, London SW1Y 5LU
Saturday 3 September: 10am-4pm
Sunday 4 September: Closed
Monday 5 September: 10am-5pm
Tuesday 6 September: 10am-5pm
Wednesday 7 September: 10am-5pm
Thursday 8 September: 10am-5pm
For more information about Sirkhane DARKROOM go to: https://heryerdesanat.org/darkroom
Sign up for auction alerts and our monthly newsletter to receive expert analysis and insights from our specialists and keep up-to-date on forthcoming auctions, valuation days and previews.