Tuesday, March 28, 2017

My photography path from Tehran/Iran to Ontario/Canada to New York/USA

By Nikoo Shahabi Sirjani

I am an immigrant! I was born and raised in Tehran, Iran’s capital and most populous cityAfter being introduced to graphic design in high school, I continued studying graphic design in university for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees. During this time, I took more than 20 mandatory photography credit courses as the first steps in my photography path. In 2007 I immigrated to Canada and started a new life in the city of Waterloo, Ontario. Although it is a small city, there were lots of young people in every corner because of two well-known universities and one college.

While living in Waterloo, I made the decision to study at a Canadian college. Unfortunately, at this point I received one of the worst pieces of advice in my life by two college advisors not to enroll in a college program. I was told it would be a downgrade for a university graduate to enroll a college program and get a college diploma! BZZZZZZ…Wrong. This was incorrect, but I made a very wrong decision based on this advice. As a result, I didn't go to college that time!

Panoramic picture of the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia.

(Nikoo Shahabi Sirjani, March 2016 First year student at Lambton Collage)
My life changed a little in 2014 and tossed me to another small city in Ontario, named Sarnia. Unlike Waterloo, Sarnia is a very quiet city with a lot of senior citizens. Although it is a small city with many members of an older generation, it has enough attractions to keep the younger generation happy as well. One of the most important attractions is a college named Lambton. Fortunately, this college was located across the street from where I lived, and so in addition to my enthusiasm to learn, location was now another motivation for me to go back to school. Lambton College may be small, but it offers very beneficial and effective programs. From my perspective, the best course of study at Lambton College with knowledgeable professors and great facilities is the two-year program of Digital Photography.   

1st Place Portrait Photography. Lambton College Digital photography Image challenge
(Nikoo Shahabi Sirjani, March 2016 First year student at Lambton College)

I enrolled in this program in September, 2015. I had to delay starting my classes by a couple of weeks since I was out of the country. I had no worries about starting school late since I thought I already had some knowledge in this field; besides, a college program does not need much time or effort! BZZZZZZ…Wrong again!

When I returned to Canada and started the program, I was just shocked. I immediately saw how serious the program is! It required lots of time and effort to be successful! I was lost, and I had to really try hard! My classmates, who are now my friends, along with my professors, were very helpful and supportive and helped me to catch up from my absence! The first semester was a great experience and it let me back on the photography track, this time professionally.

The winner picture for the Blues Day. H2O How to Overcome 
Obstacles poster. (Nikoo Shahabi Sirjani, March 2016 
Student at Lambton College)
Second semester continued to be a positive experience and I learned a lot. In general, my first year in digital photography not only added to my photography knowledge but also provided me with a chance to improve my English and anthropology knowledge! I won two photography contests for first-year students. One of my pictures ended up being used as an educational poster. I was told by the coordinator of the digital photography program that my panoramic picture from the Blue Water Bridge had been chosen as a Sarnia Landmark by one of the Deans at Lambton College. I was placed on the Deans’ Honour List in recognition of my academic performance in Winter, 2016. In addition, I was chosen by the coordinator as a candidate to be on the committee for the program review.

Lambton College’s Digital Photography professors and I at our year-end Image Competition
Awards event. 
Life brought another huge change in my life and so at the end of the first year, I had to leave not only the program, not only Lambton College, and not only Sarnia, but I had to leave Canada! I had to move to the U.S. and start a new life there!

Fashion Photography. Theme: Circus (Nikoo Shahabi Sirjani,
November 2106 Student at ICP School)
The experience of a busy life in a metropolitan city after all those years of living in small, quiet cities brought two different senses for me: stress and excitement. I had to deal with stress and take advantages of excitement and let myself progress and grow again. So I made a fast decision to enroll in a fashion photography course at the International Center of Photography in NYC. ICP School is one of the most prestigious and well known photography schools in the word, and I am very fortunate to have been able to continue my photography studies there. Studying at ICP has proven to be another great experience for me. This current semester I am enrolled in a lighting class.

Leaving my home country and immigrating to another country with a totally different language and culture is a difficult enough change to deal with in one lifetime. Add to that lots of ups and downs followed by another immigration from my adopted home or second home could have been totally disastrous! For me, art is always needed to make life more beautiful. Photography is an especially wonderful, endless art that has brought so many colours into my life. That being said, I am a big fan of black and white photography.

Lambton College school trip to NYC (Nikoo Shahabi Sirjani, October 2016)
Finally, I wish to add that one of the highlights of Lambton College’s digital photography program is the five-day school trip to New York City for second-year students. Although I missed that school trip since I had already moved to the U.S., I was lucky enough to live close by and join my former classmates and professors when they came to NYC. This fantastic experience has been an energizing part of my photography adventure!

Anti-racism in fashion photography (Nikoo Shahabi Sirjani,
November 2016 student at ICP School)

  Lighting for portrait (Nikoo Shahabi Sirjani, February 2017 Student at ICP school)

Lighting for portrait (Nikoo Shahabi Sirjani, February 2017 Student at ICP school)

Fashion Photography. Theme: Circus (Nikoo Shahabi Sirjani,
November 2106 Student at ICP School)


  1. I enjoyed reading your journey although it had lots of ups and downs but so happy for you that you didn't give up and followed your heart. Keep up the good work! Wish you more success and happiness ahead dear Nikoo. So proud of you girl!

  2. Congratulations for always evolving and inspiring others! I am very happy for you. Dream on and achieve on!

  3. Loved reading your story Nikoo. It was truly inspiring. Also, I'm a big fan of your work!

  4. Welcome to your new journey! You are very talented and I'm glad you didn't give up and improved your passion. I'm looking forward to seeing your success and your outstanding projects. Good Luck!

  5. Nikoo, although it set your life plan back a year or two, I am so glad you received bad advice in Waterloo. If that had not occurred, you and I would have never crossed paths. So, from a selfish standpoint, I'm so GLAD you ended up taking the long route. I miss you, friend! Your images are beautiful, Nikoo. I can see your growth right before my eyes. XO

  6. Very much enjoyed the honesty and simplicity that poured out of your story...It tells me one thing for sure and that you truely are destined to become a great photographer which I believe you are already there...Loved your shots...Way to go, Nikoo.

  7. I loved reading your story, my hard working, talent friend way to go ����

  8. Dear Nikoo, I am so happy that your talent has found its way. I love your works, so keep up the good work.

  9. Thanks for the kind words. By the way who is this?

  10. Such an inspiring life story! Thanks for sharing with us!
    That's absolutely interesting that despite all those ups and downs, you made the best of it. To me, it's all about the power of passion.
    Thanks for letting us to see the world differently through your artistic eyes.
    Looking forward to see your future amazing works.


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