A recent “Call For Entries” generated 70 responses overnight. One applicant was H. N. I knew she was Iranian, but I assumed she lived either here in the states, or in Canada. In any case, I knew she wasn’t a local photographer and so even though I liked her work, I replied that the gallery could only show work the artist could bring and hang in person.

Hanna Noori

Her reply and and all our subsequent email and Facebook communications have served to remind me that those of us who do live here often forget, or really never think about, the difficulties someone like H., who actually resides in Iran, face daily in the pursuit of their art. She told me of the difficulties of getting her work shown outside of the country and the impossibility of showing it in Iran, due to the strict Islamic regime and the ┬álimits it places on personal freedom, of women in particular. As a photographer as well as a painter, she isn’t able to show work in her own country and as a musician, she is not allowed to perform in public.

Iran is a complex country, one that I visited twice many years ago. Even in those very different times it was easy for me to see the struggle it had with promoting its own culture and identity and embracing the personal freedoms we take for granted in the West. Of course, it’s much worse now for reasons we are all familiar with.


I changed my mind after her reply and decided to print a selection of pictures H. produced for a series she calls “Unreal Reality,” pictures drawn from her own dreams. Sometimes she is the model in the pictures, sometimes she shoots scenes from her own life and of the people around her, but there is always a sense in these pictures of a struggle to move forward, a longing to reveal what must be veiled. And fear, too, that element we all struggle with in those dreams that edge towards the nightmarish.



It was strange to exchange emails with H., real-time Facebook messages and in doing so, have all these issues brought into focus. This is a real person I am communicating with who is having these struggles. The problems of people like H. were no longer an abstract occurrence in a strange country far away. The personal connection had been made.

Sometimes she has no internet connection because the government there slows it down for obviously political reasons. She has to be careful with what she says, in the same way she has to be careful with her photography or music. Can’t draw the wrong kind of attention.

You’d think that maybe a woman like her, in that country would be too burdened by daily existence to be proactive in other ways. Two weeks into my email communications with H., after a few days of nothing from her, she got back in touch and apologized for being late in replying. She was helping a young girl from a nearby village who had been raped. Now that’s a trauma anywhere, but for this teenage girl, if her family found out, they would kill her. So H. took it upon herself to help R. find a surgeon to restore the family honor, make her presentable to a future husband and save her life.

Yes, in the real world, this happens in many, many countries and while we can sit back and denounce the barbarity of it, it still just happens to strangers far away, until that thin thread comes back to us and we are reminded that we’re all connected.


Oh, the gallery show? Well, from the series of dream images H. submitted, I looked through the other work offered and picked four other photographers whose pictures dealt with the the imagined, the surreal, fantasy, the abstract. Ways we use photography to probe what lies beneath the surface of pictures, to encourage us as viewers to interpret what we’re looking at, as well as understand what the artist is putting forth from their own perspective.

The gallery is now six years old and has hosted about 50 shows. It’s been a wonderful experience for me and a chance to help get the word out about some of the wonderful photographers and other artists I’ve been privileged print for. If you live nearby, you are always invited to stop by and see what’s on the walls. The reception for each show is a great time to come in and meet the artists.

I’m particularly pleased to show the work in our current show, “What Is The Meaning Of This?” And it all came about because a young woman living in a country known for repression, wouldn’t take no for an answer.


2 Responses to “The genesis of a show in The LightRoom gallery”

  1. patricia ternahan

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful story about a most remarkable woman.

  2. Pamela Liew

    So glad she did not take “no” for an answer, and that you not only included her work, but introduced it in such a captivating way. Thank you.

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