Passion for photography: Kareem develops a talent to skill

UNICEF supports young people to achieve their full potential

Sandra Awad and Rasha Alsabbagh
Young man holding a camera standing next to flash light panel
UNICEF/Syria/2022/Samer Ballan
17 August 2022

18 July 2022, As-Sweida city, south Syria – “People take photos to capture memories of joyful moments,” said Kareem, 17, from As-Sweida, south Syria. “Photography is my passion, talent and job. I’m blessed to bear witness and document people’s good memories.”

Kareem’s friends and family always knew that he was good at taking photos. He had wanted to refine his photography skills but could not afford to enroll in professional photography courses. His family of four barely gets by, relying on his father’s pension and mother’s modest income from the agricultural institute she works at.

Group of young men sitting to laptops in a classroom
UNICEF/Syria/2022/Samer Ballan
Kareem, 17, attends a photoshop course at a UNICEF -supported youth friendly space in As-Sweida city, south Syria, on 18 July 2022.

Late last year, he found out, through social media, about free vocational and life skills courses offered a UNICEF -supported youth friendly space in As-Sweida city. He immediately approached the centre and registered for the photography course. “I was excited after I saw the post. My dream had come true,” explained Kareem.

“Although my priority for next year will be to prepare for my Grade 12 exams, I’ll also have time for photography. Photography helps me to blow off steam and express myself when I don’t know how to talk about my feelings,” he added.

“Since the beginning of the course, I could tell that some of the participants were talented. They shone like stars. Kareem was one of them,” said Samer Ballan, a professional photographer and the instructor of the course.

Instructor talking to young man holding a camera
UNICEF/Syria/2022/
Kareem, 17, with his trainer Samer Ballan, at a UNICEF -supported youth friendly space in As-Sweida city, south Syria, on 18 July 2022.

“Since the beginning of the course, I could tell that some of the participants were talented. They shone like stars. Kareem was one of them,”

Samer Ballan, professional photographer and instructor

Since 2021, UNICEF in Syria, has supported nearly 300,000 adolescents and youth with employability skills, including life skills and citizenship education, entrepreneurship skills, as well as technical and vocational education and training. The activities were funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the KFW Development Bank.

Young man sitting to laptop
UNICEF/Syria/2022/Samer Ballan
Kareem, 17, attends a photoshop course at a UNICEF -supported youth friendly space in As-Sweida city, south Syria, on 18 July 2022.

If one wants to write a good essay, one should know grammar. It is the same with photography. Talent is not enough - a good photographer needs to know the principles and techniques of the profession,” Kareem said.

“During the course, we put in practice every single piece of information we’d learned. It was great,” he added.

Youth-led initiatives are regularly held at the youth friendly space and students from the UNICEF -supported photography course help take photos during the events. It has helped Kareem to hone his skills. After completing the course, he looked for work at a photography studio and was immediately hired. He uses what he earns to support his family and prepare for his Grade 12 studies.

Young man standing in front of a wall of photos
UNICEF/Syria/2022/Samer Ballan
Kareem, 17, points to one of the photos he used to participate in a photography exhibition at a UNICEF- supported youth friendly space in As-Sweida city, south Syria, on 18 July 2022. “It was a great initiative! Our villages are beautiful and have so many historical monuments. I was happy to capture a few photos and participate in the exhibition with four pictures,” he said.

“Young people in Syria face huge obstacles. It can lead to depression or dim creativity,” he said. “I am grateful for the youth centre. The support I received helped me to overcome my challenges and put me on the right path.”

Kareem has not yet decided what he will study at the at the university after finishing Grade 12. “I’m unclear about it but I actually feel more confident having built a skill, like photography,” he says. His ambitions keep on growing and he recently registered for a photoshop course at the youth friendly space. “Photoshop and photography complement each other. If I learn how to photoshop, my chances to get a job in this field will be higher.”