So tonight I’m sitting in the lounge having coffee with Larry Becker (well, I’m not sure what Larry was having, but I was having regular coffee), and a Photoshop World attendee came up and introduced himself, and I immediately recognized his name because he had sent me a personal letter, with some of his photography, just a week or so before.
His name is Ali Rajabi (that’s Ali and I above, in an iPhone photo taken in the hotel lobby by Brad), and he came all the way to Orlando from Iran. I was just amazed!
First, he’s just an incredibly great guy (and a very talented photographer, with great Photoshop skills as well). We sat for a half an hour as he told us the story of how he wound up getting a visa to attend Photoshop World. He told us how hard it is for an Iranian to get permission from the U.S. State Dept. to visit the US, but he visited the American Consulate in Dubai, with samples of his work, and his completed applications, reasons why he wanted to come to America, etc..
As luck would have it; the State Dept. official reviewing his request was a photographer himself, and knew of NAPP and the Photoshop World conference. They started talking about Ali’s photos, and his use of HDR, and the conference, and before you knew it, he stamped his request “Approved,” (which Ali assured us is very rare).
Ali teaches Photoshop in Iran, and he has a lot of my books (he named them all), which he gets from a relative living in Spain, and he watches Matt, Dave, and me on Photoshop User TV, so he knows us very well (while we were talking, RC walked up and Ali’s shouts “Hey, it’s RC!!!!” and he’s smiling from ear to ear!). Larry Becker was at the table with me, and Larry invited Ali to write a tutorial for the NAPP member Website, so hopefully we’ll have something up there from him soon, which will definitely be a first.
It was just a really fun experience to meet someone from so far away, who shares our same passions for Photoshop and photography, and I know he’s going to have a blast while he’s here (he told me “I’m going to Joe McNally and Moose’s Pre-Conference workshop tomorrow” (after a day with Joe and Moose, he’s going to take back some wild stories to Iran).
If you’re here at Photoshop World, and you see Ali in between sessions, on the show floor, or in class, I hope you’ll make him feel welcome. He’s not a government official of Iran. He’s a photographer. He’s a Photoshop instructor. He’s just like us, and he loves this stuff as much as we do, (and besides, he’s an incredibly warm, friendly guy, and he’d love it if you just said “hi” and offered a friendly smile).
When I meet people like Ali, it just reminds me that people all around the world are more the same than they are different. It’s just that we don’t usually get to meet them face-t0-face. If we did, I bet we’d find that we have much more in common, and much more to offer each other, than our governments would ever let us believe.
Here’s to a great Photoshop World, and to making new friends, wherever they may hail from.