About Hadi

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. 

Time Line

Born:  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

Work Experience:

professional photographer for addidas, billabong, crystal, dragon Fly, free ride, gotcha, los angeles times magazine, mca, mcd, nike, pg&E, sony, split, tool, vans


Neue Galerie Berlin
February - April 2016

December 2015

Kunsthaus Lempertz Berlin
September 2015            

Community Foundation Berlin, Auction
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