F-Stop Magazine Logo


BOOK REVIEW: I Saw The Air Fly by Sirkhane Darkroom

Mardin is a city in southeastern Turkey, capital of the province of the same name. The Syrian territory opens up to the south of the province of Mardin. Its population is very heterogeneous and includes Arabs, Assyrians and Kurds. But above all refugees from the nearby war zones of Armenia, Iraq and, last in order of time, Syria.

Sirkhane is a social circus school, founded in 2012, which carries out activities in the service of children through mobile units in the province of Mardin. Sirkhane’s mission is to provide a safe, friendly and welcoming environment to rehabilitate children who come from conflict zones and have experienced war situations that have traumatized their childhood.


5. Rojin, 14 years old. Image from i saw the air fly by
Sirkhane DARKROOM (MACK, 2021). Courtesy the artist
and MACK.


Serbest Salih is a Syrian refugee who arrived from Aleppo in 2014. He speaks the Kurdish, Arabic, Turkish and English languages. He has a degree in photography and joined Sirkhane in 2017. He played an active role in the creation and management of one of the association’s projects, “Darkroom,” which consists of an analog photography course for children.

Sirkahne Darkroom offers many young refugees the opportunity to learn about photography. The project equips children with inexpensive analog cameras, teaches them the basics of composition and the visual arts, and how to develop, print and achieve appreciable results. Children have the opportunity to collaborate and make friends with each other, across gender, social and cultural differences, and find peace, harmony, openness and joy in their local and global communities.


14. Ahmed, 10 years old. Image from i saw the air fly by
Sirkhane DARKROOM (MACK, 2021). Courtesy the artist
and MACK.


And above all, children have the way to learn to tell stories and their own vision of the world by expressing themselves through analogue photography.


“Analog photography is a universal language: No matter where a child comes from, a child is able to express himself he wants to do it.”

[Serbest Salih]


In 2019 the program went mobile and began traveling through villages across the border between Turkey and Syria to allow children to participate in Sirkhane Darkroom.


15. Elife, 14 years old. Image from i saw the air fly by
Sirkhane DARKROOM (MACK, 2021). Courtesy the artist
and MACK.


As part of the program, children are encouraged to use cameras and go outside: explore their surroundings as well as their imaginations. When children are taught how to develop their photographs, Serbest is always surprised by how amazed they are when they see the image appear on paper, as if by magic.


“When you look at these photographs collected together, you see children sharing with us true moments from their lives: moments inside their homes, with their friends, with family. 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. Instead, they are a testament to the resilience of the childhood imagination, the healing power of photography, and the enchanting perspective of childhood.”

[Serbest Salih]


The Mack publishing house got us used to high-level publications, and this book confirms it. The stylistic and technical choices are particular and, in my opinion, very appropriate to the project. The book is almost pocket size, it is made of raw paper and is completely black and white: from the photographs to the cover. The numbers on each page are accompanied by the name of the child who took the photo and his age.


7. Sultan, 14 years old. Image from i saw the air fly by
Sirkhane DARKROOM (MACK, 2021). Courtesy the artist
and MACK.


 I Saw The Air Fly is an opportunity to reflect on what the power of photography can be in storytelling. On how these photographs represent a historical document and an opportunity for these children to keep in touch with us and to leave a mark on history. And to think about how this is possible in a universal sense and regardless of the technological means available. And, above all, an opportunity to reflect on how much war is always wrong and how, affecting above all the weakest and the smallest, it irremediably compromises the future of the planet.

In these days of geopolitical and emotional instability, I tell myself this whether Art can be a solution or not. But I am more than sure that Art can be the cure.


10. Selma, 10 years old. Image from i saw the air fly by
Sirkhane DARKROOM (MACK, 2021). Courtesy the artist
and MACK.



If you would like to make a donation or, simply, send photographic material (liquid for development, paper, analog cameras that you no longer use) you can do it at this link: Donate — Sirkhane Darkroom

For more information: Serbest Salih , Sirkhane DARKROOM


Cover of the book I Saw the Air Fly

i saw the air fly (2021)
by Sirkhane DARKROOM
published by MACK


Location: Online Type: , , ,

2 responses to “BOOK REVIEW: I Saw The Air Fly by Sirkhane Darkroom”

  1. Barbara says:

    Thank you for pointing us to this book and for reminding us how photography can serve and preserve innocence.

  2. Thank you for appreciating the review and the project. A hope for the future.

    And thanks to fstop and Mack.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Events by Location

Post Categories