Hadi Salehi was born in Chahsavar in northern Iran near the Caspian Sea. He started taking pictures in his early teens with a Russian Lubitel, which he still owns today. In 1978, he graduated from Tehran University and received a grant to study film in the United States. Upon arrival in Los Angeles, Hadi found the social climate not all that welcoming for Iranian immigrants and had to take many odd jobs while pursuing his art. Around the same time, Hadi discovered The Clash’s music and the burgeoning L.A. Punk scene, which he drew inspiration from. He picked up his camera and started documenting the shows, graffiti, and chicano rights demonstrations. This eventually got Hadi noticed, and he was recruited by the Art Center of Design in Pasadena.
Hadi liked to experiment with the development process and was known to take cameras apart just to manipulate the shot or pull apart the emulsion to deconstruct and reconstruct the image. He found that he wanted to push the limits of the conventional approach to photography. This unique attitude led to acceptance from another band of outsiders: surfers. They got it and embraced him. Hadi spent the next decade traveling and shooting exclusively some of the most prolific surfers of the era and worked with quite a few legendary surfing lifestyle brands. With that validation, Hadi now had the ability to focus on his art and he traveled across the globe capturing amazing images of people and their daily lives. Eventually, he made the first of many photography inspired trips back to his native Iran to document his roots.
Hadi’s work is diverse but retains a common element that makes them recognizably his. His portraits are both powerful and soft leaving a haunting quality that lingers in the psyche. He wants to create a collective awareness and be a cultural messenger through his images. His career now spans almost 40 years and has closely photographed cultural innovators like Keith Haring, Tricky, Rob Machado, Kelly Slater, Martin Potter, Derek Ho, Brock Little, Dave Alvin, Questlove, and The Dead Kennedys. His client base includes: Adidas, Billabong, Gotcha!, Sony, TOOL, Nike and the Los Angeles Times magazine.
Hadi creates in layers, he is always experimenting with the developing process of each photograph. Using a myriad of antique cameras, Hadi’s work begins with an analog portrait of his subjects, followed by the manipulation of those images. Hadi carefully pulls each photograph apart in their base negative form, and applies emulsion in a painterly fashion to create spontaneous and dynamic effects to the ink of the photograph. Through this layering of positives and negatives, text and imagery, Hadi creates imagery that is unique and soulful, and as modern as it is vintage.
January 2, 1951, Chasavar, Iran. Immigrated to the US in 1978
B.A. Photography, Art center college of design, Pasadena, CA 1991
B.A. Library Science, Minor in Education, Tehran University 1977
Neue Galerie, Berlin – February – April 2016
ADVOCARTSY, IRANIAN CONTEMPORARY LOS ANGELES – December 2015
Kunsthaus Lempertz, Berlin – September 2015
Community Foundation Auction, Berlin – September 2015
Align Gallery, Los Angeles – April – May 2015
South Bay Contemporary – June 2014
Hangar Gallery, Santa Monica – September 2012
The loft / MOPLA, Los Angeles – April 2012
Santa Monica Studios – January 2012
Zask Gallery, Palos Verdes – September – October 2011
Shirin Art Gallery, Tehran – November 2009
Los Angeles Maritime Museum – March 2008
Art Center College of Design, Pasadena – October – November 2007
Ministry of Defense, Los Angeles – February – March 2006
Rose Art Gallery, Orange County – December 2005
Laguna Art Show, Laguna Beach – March 2004
The Surf Gallery, Laguna Beach – September 2003
Orange Coast Art Center, Orange County – November 2002
The Basement, Los Angeles – May, 1999