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Matinee: 'Sirkhane Darkroom' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

29 September 2018

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 169th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Sirkhane Darkroom.

The pipe dream of some of our friends who love to read is to own a book store crammed with towering shelves of dusty volumes and stalagmites of new arrivals along the narrow aisles.

We don't have a pipe dream like that but we come close. We have a fantasy of collecting all the old, broken cameras in town and, using our magic mechanical powers, some screw drivers and a pair of needle-nosed pliers, returning them to the hands of some kids who would otherwise not be able to take a picture.

It turns out we're not the only one who fantasizes about that. In quite a few places, there are programs just like our fantasy operating today.

The kids get a camera and think about what story they will tell with a roll of 36 exposures.

Among them is this one in Mardin, Turkey, by the Syrian border. It's an analog photography workshop for Syrian and Turkish children from the Istayson district. Mardin is also the home of the Sirkhane Social Circus School, which performs a similar civic function.

The short clip opens with one child teaching another how to load film onto a developing reel. It isn't until a minute in that we hear an adult talk about the 40 children in the program.

The kids get a camera and think about what story they will tell with a roll of 36 exposures. We see the kids on the street, looking through their cameras at this new world and posing for each other.

"All of a sudden," the narrator says, "they are able to describe in photography what they couldn't verbalize before."

One child spent the day with her mother, a tailor, to tell her story. Another takes photos of children working in Istayson.

We also see them in the darkroom, examining their developed filmstrips and printing the negatives. They don't want to leave the darkroom. It's magic.

The real magic though isn't photography. It's the faces of these children. That's what makes this video stand out among others of programs like this. The children are engaged, intent, smiling and alive with ideas.

There is a generation of children growing up in the Middle East deprived of school. But young minds thirst for an education. So even this small opportunity brings new students to the program every day.

Who knows, the next Atget or Cartier-Bresson or Weston could be among them. Or, even better, a new generation of diplomats intent on peace in the region.


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