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Notre Dame hosts “Iran Beyond Politics” photo exhibit

Southbendtribune– When the Persian Association of Notre Dame booked a visit from the traveling photo exhibit “Iran Beyond Politics,” it didn’t realize how timely the visit would be, with global news focused on President Donald Trump’s executive order that bars travel to the U.S. by citizens of seven countries, including Iran.

But the news gives Iranians a chance to show they are more than the aggressive image seen in media around the world, says Fatemeh Elahi, a member of PAND and one of the organizers of the event, which will showcase the photography exhibit on Friday. The exhibit shows daily life, the landscape and the people of Iran in a light many outsiders don’t see, she says, and contains images from 30 photographers. She will lead a discussion on the event at 6 p.m.

“Iran is covered in the media, but only in one aspect,” she says. “We’re trying to show a broader image.”

Elahi, who came to the U.S. from Iran when she was 16 when her dad came to Notre Dame as a visiting scholar, understands overcoming misconceptions first-hand — but not in the way you’d think.

“When I came to the U.S., and I started meeting people from countries that Iran had portrayed poorly, my misconceptions were corrected,” she says. “I could hear their stories firsthand, and not through a layer of the media.”

A graduate of John Adams High School, she’s now in her fifth year of the physics doctoral program at the university and sees the barrier between the actuality of Iran and its portrayal in American media when she talks to other people.

“I gather from conversations with my friends here that they just don’t understand Iran,” she explains.

The exhibit, a collaboration between Purdue University and the Iranian photography magazine Sarzamin Man (Persian for “My Motherland”), was curated by Purdue doctoral student Maryam Ghadiri. Ghadiri said in an interview with Persianesque Magazine that the exhibit is meant to reach one person at a time on the realities of life in Iran, hoping to break the misconceptions people have.

“This exhibition is a celebration: I would like to take you on a journey through my motherland; a land full of colors and beauty, full of wonderful people, traditions, food, history, landscapes, arts, and crafts,” she said. “I am taking you to a space beyond media and politics, to a warm and joyful place, so that you can see the real story for yourself.”

Ghadiri gave a Tedx talk at Purdue titled “Iran from a Different Lens,” which Elahi and other members of PAND saw online and that can be found on YouTube. The talk spurred them into booking the exhibit for Notre Dame and the community at large.

The exhibit focuses on the diversity of ethnicity, architecture and nature in Iran, Elahi says.

“The main point of this exhibit is to show a different side of Iran,” she says.

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