Youth Lens … Learning the language of the image
Friendship, hope, happiness, the future, how might you present any of these issues in a single image?
The Youth Lens project was launched in 2018 under the aegis of UNICEF in Turkey. It aims to train 60 young Syrian refugees and Turks from Gaziantep, Istanbul and Izmir in the language of images. The young photographers, aged 11 to 18, were introduced to image storytelling over a period of four months by the photographer Reza and local trainers. Workshops took place in the three cities, first led by Reza and then under the supervision of local trainers. Students learned the tools of photography and became familiar with visual narration to tell their dreams and realities through the power of images. They explored specific themes, then shared various aspects of their lives through photographs.
Yasmin Masri, 17, a Syrian student in the youth lens project shared with us her experience, explaining, “I worked for a while when I first came to Turkey with my family to help them. Yet, I always wanted to become a professional photographer. This project gave me the opportunity to show people what I see through my eyes.” says Yasmin. The youth lens participants, gathered around a common project, learned to share and live together, thus contributing to the social cohesion of their environment. The project helps to give resonance to actions that help build bridges between people and among communities. Furkan Uygun, 16, a Turkish student in the youth lens project reflected on how this project changed his perception saying, “before the photography workshops, I just saw this process as simply taking a photo. Now, I understand that there is a story and a meaning behind each photo. UNICEF is doing so much for children around the world, so please keep doing it."
Under the title “Dreams of the Future”, three exhibitions were organized in Paris, New York and Ankara. The images displayed at these exhibitions were a selection from a wider body of photographs taken by the 60 Turkish and Syrian adolescents living in Turkey, telling their stories to the world.
During her tour of the “Dreams of the Future” exhibition at UNICEF House in New York, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore declared that the future of young people takes priority. “This exhibit is a great demonstration of how young people from different backgrounds can work together on a common project."
Mr. Halis Yunus Ersoz, Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports declared during the opening ceremony of the “Dreams of Future” Exhibition at the French Economic, Social and Environmental Council in Paris “ I would like to thank UNICEF, Reza Deghati and the EU and everyone who has worked on this project. The Ministry of Youth and Sports pays close attention to the integration process of asylum seekers and offers them Turkish language education along with all the advantages of the youth centers and youth camps under the Ministry. Our hope is that the cooperation that has started will be sustained and will have a greater impact in the international arena, spreading more and more amongst youth and multiplying its effect.”
Martin Taschner of the EU’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations said: “Education in Emergencies is an absolute priority for the European Union. The education projects supported by EU help refugee children to access school, which is a concrete investment in their future. Education is a protective shield against violence, early marriage and sexual exploitation. It makes children feel safe and provides them with opportunities for their future”.
With a smile on her face, Yasmin Masri concluded her speech during the New York exhibition “I’m so thankful for this opportunity to show the world my life and what is happening around us.”
Turkey is home to more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees under temporary protection. Of these, 1.6 million are children and about 650,000 are attending school. However, 400.000 school-age children remain out of school and are potentially vulnerable to social isolation, discrimination, child labour and child marriage.
In view of this, and within the framework of a non-formal education programme, UNICEF, in partnership with the Turkish Ministry of Youth and Sports and photographer Reza, initiated the Youth Lens project with the financial support of the European Union.