Can photographs capture dreams of the future?

 A girl admiring the Bosphorus while her long red-brown hair flies in the wind,

Last month the photographic exhibition “Youth Lens – Dreams of the Future” opened in New York.

And while exhibitions open in NYC all the time, this one is special: all the photographers are between the ages of 11 and 18.

The photos in this exhibition are a selection from a wider body of photographs taken by 60 Turkish and Syrian young people living in Turkey who are part of the Youth Lens project. Launched in 2018, it aims to train 60 young Syrian refugees and Turks from Gaziantep, Istanbul, and Izmir in the language of images.

A man selling heart-shaped balloons walks in the opposite direction of a gardener carrying his tools.
“Crossing paths”, by Ayten Koncuk from Gaziantep captures the moment as a balloon seller and gardener cross paths.

Over a period of 4 months, the young photographers were introduced to image storytelling by the photographer Reza Deghati and local trainers. They 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, shared various aspects of their lives, and connected through their photographs.

A young boy hands a flower to a girl
Yasmin Masri, 17, from Syria captured this beautiful gesture. Yasmin is interested in giving a voice to women and children through photography. She also wants to become a women’s rights activist to defend all women rights regardless of their background or culture. She plans to become a wedding photographer.
A flock of seagulls in the sky in Istanbul
Seagulls in Istanbul, by Ali Albakri.

Turkey is home to more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees under temporary protection. Of these, 1.5 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 the non-formal education programme, UNICEF Turkey, in partnership with the Turkish Ministry of Youth and Sports and photographer Reza, launched the Youth Lens project with the financial support of the European Union.

Learn more by visiting the UNICEF Turkey website or following them on social media - Twitter or Facebook.

"This project gave me the opportunity to show people what I see through my eyes" - Yasmin Masri, 17
Grains of sand slide through the fingers of a girl at the seaside during sunrise
“Hourglass” - Grains of sand slide through the fingers of a girl at the seaside during sunrise, captured by Sana Aboud
A teenage girl walking with a ball while her mother sits on a chair next to a shadow of a man on the wall.
“Shadows” - A teenage girl walks by her mother, with the shadow of a man on the wall between them. By Gülcan Paksoy
Mirror reflection of a shoemaker crafting a new pair of traditional shoes.
Zehra Oğuz took this photo of showing a shoemaker reflected in a mirror, crafting a new pair of traditional shoes.
“Before the training, I just saw this process as simply taking a photo. Now, I understand that there is a story and a meaning behind each photo." - Furkan Uygun, 16
Colourful birdhouses on a tree in Gaziantep
“Dreams of the future” – the colourful birdhouses on a tree in Gaziantep were captured by Mehmet Sayindi.
A skateboarder jumps high at the seaside in Istanbul.
“Elevation” shows a skateboarder’s jump by the seaside in Istanbul, caught by Mohammad Abou Daher.
A reflection of the Izmir streets after the rain.
In “Paradigms” Hali̇d Adali catches a reflection of the Izmir streets after the rain.
People waking by the seaside under old trees in Istanbul.
In “Serenity” people walk by the seaside under old trees in Istanbul, captured by Omar Koulko.
Republic of Türkiye