KYOTO — A black-and-white photograph shows a mother preparing breakfast in a tent. Another picture depicts two children playing outside a row of tents.
These are some of the images taken by Turkish children who survived the devastating earthquake that hit western and central provinces of the country in August 1999.
Although the Turkish government says the killer quake claimed about 17,000 lives, volunteer groups estimate the number exceeded 40,000. About 250,000 people are said to be still living in tents or prefabricated houses.
About 80 photographs, which were exhibited in Kyoto last week and will be displayed in Kobe later this month and in Tokyo in early October, are the outcome of a three-month photo workshop for children conducted jointly by two volunteer groups — Volunteers for Solidarity from Turkey and Enfants du Monde (Children of the World) from France.
About 120 children aged between 8 and 17 participated in the workshop, which began last October in Izmit, one of the hardest-hit areas, in an effort to mitigate the quake’s traumatic impact on children.
“Volunteer groups held various workshop for children and women, such as playing soccer and singing songs for children and embroidering for women. And the photographers’ workshop was one of them,” said Ozcan Yurdalan, a journalist and representative of Volunteers for Solidarity. “As there was no precedent, we did not know how the photo workshop would go, but it turned out to be a great success.”
Yurdalan visited Japan in early September to report on life after the quake and the photo workshop.
An old ammunition storeroom was turned into a darkroom by covering windows with unused body bags, and various equipment was donated.
“In the first month, we taught the children basic techniques of photography,” Yurdalan told a Kyoto audience through an interpreter.
“However, our aim was not to teach them techniques but to let them think what photography is. So, we let the children choose their theme and let them think how best to describe the theme through one photograph. All the pictures were the result of much thinking and discussions.”
The children were required to take notes, and some of their writings about photography and their themes were displayed with their pictures.
Duygu Sezer, 11, for example, said he wants to take pictures “because we should work hard for knowledge. A picture is knowledge. A picture needs to be taken, it needs memory, reality and history . . .”
Gokhan Ipek, 9, said: “I want to take pictures of my mother and father and sisters, or birds and chicks and my aunts and uncles and children and people playing football. I want to take pictures of winter tents, roads and people at the laundry, of people reading books because I like them. Because the library is a wonderful place . . .”
Yurdalan said that all the instructors were surprised and impressed by the children’ creativity and ability to express themselves through photography.
“We instructors also learned a lot from them.”
After the first workshop ended in January, the volunteer groups exhibited the photos across Turkey. The Japan tour was the second foreign site following Vienna in April.
But, with an increasing demand from children, a second workshop started in August. Yurdalan said that his group is also planning to set up a photography school for children within a year and a half to make the workshop a more permanent place to learn photography.
“We want to start it from really small — teaching free of charge about 20 or 25 students who survived the quake,” Yurdalan said. “When it goes well, then, we want to invite students from other parts of the country.”
The photo exhibition will take place in Kobe’s Phoenix Plaza near JR Sannomiya Station between Sept. 26 and 29. Then it will move to the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Meguro Ward between Oct. 3 and 9.
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