By Hannah Stevens @hannahshewans

WHILE the common perception of the Syrian refugee camps is of dreary places devoid of hope, a photographer has set out to show the other side of the migrant experience

Scroll down for the full story

Even children are being born in these temporary homes

In December 2015, Marcus Valance began volunteering as a patroller on the beaches of Greece, helping fleeing Syrian migrants out of boats and keeping them warm, dry and fed.

Marcus Valance travels to migrant camps across Greece to photograph their inhabitants

Now Valance travels between migrant camps to capture the smiles of the migrants making the best of terrible conditions.

He said: “These people are walking along with mismatched shoes and living in tents, at times in the most horrendous storms. There were gale force winds when I was there and tents flying everywhere. 

But despite the harsh living conditions children are putting on brave faces

“There’s kids all over the place falling over and struggling, but they pick themselves up again and again.

“The kids are so resilient, in fact all the people are. They’re so in control of their emotions and there’s no fighting or violence, it’s just calm and peaceful.”

They even go out of their way to help volunteer workers to hand out food

The migrants' resilience has created tight-knit communities and now schools and shops are becoming more commonplace in the camps.

Some of the children have started to act as translators for visiting photographers

Marcus said: “You’d walk down the street and every family would be inviting you in for tea and dinner.

“It’s the most incredible place to be. Everyone is so warm-hearted and welcoming. 

The children in the camps are eager to show off their talents - even nail painting

“Ninety-nine percent have lost family and friends in the bombings. I met one guy who had horrific scars running up his legs and had almost lost use of his arm in a bombing.

And the adults are not letting the children have all the fun

“They’ve all been through so much and they just keep going.”

Valance ensures his photos have a lasting effect in the camps too - at the end of every day he prints off copies to give to the migrants.

Life at the camps is slowly becoming the norm for young children

He said: “I’ll never forget one man, I took a photo of this Sudanese guy in Calais and he said ‘this is the first time I’ve seen my face in four months’. That will stay with me.” 

Camp communities are settling in for a long stay

The experience has been life-changing for Marcus and he plans to continue his work across European migrant camps – with Lebanon next on the list. 

Food stalls, medical centres and even schools are being set up in the camps

The London-based photographer said: “The first time I went over there it really hit me and I was quite disturbed in a way I think. 

“But then I realised after some separation being back in our world, where most people have somewhere to live, jobs and independence, in comparison these people have nothing but the shirts on their backs.

“It made me realise how petty the world can be.”