Teri’s Notebook: Photographer Rick Gunn to speak in Iran

Mohammad Tajeran and Rick Gunn ride their bikes across Qeshm. The two are collaborating on a TEDx Talk in Iran next month.

Mohammad Tajeran and Rick Gunn ride their bikes across Qeshm. The two are collaborating on a TEDx Talk in Iran next month.

Rick Gunn may not understand the nuances of the Iranian government or its relationship with the U.S., but he knows one thing.

He knows Mohammad Tajeran — an Iranian — is his friend.

That is what he hopes is going to make a difference.

Gunn, a former Nevada Appeal photographer (He hates that moniker. He thinks he’s more than that… But I think that’s how people know him. It’ll never be settled, I guess). who rode his bike around the world, has been invited to speak at TEDx in Iran.

“I’m not going to be giving a big dissertation on our governments,” he said. “I just want to tell the story of Mohammad and I and our friendship. Human being to human being.”

During his 2005 bicycle trip around the world, Gunn did an Internet search for cycling Iran for tips on how to get a visa for that country.

While he didn’t find any tips, he came across Tajeran, who was just getting ready to leave on his own bicycle journey around the globe to plant trees along the way.

The two exchanged cursory messages and continued to keep in contact loosely as they both pedaled on their own separate ways.

Then, in one message, they realized they were in neighboring Thailand and Malaysia and decided to meet up.

“We hit it off right away,” Gunn recalled. “I found out he was a human being just like you and me. Not an evil terrorist plotting.”

And as they shared their stories, they found out they both lost a parent and had left traditional jobs to pursue their dreams.

“This wasn’t just someone I met on the road,” Gunn said. “This was a kindred soul. It was someone whose life was so like my own.”

Tajeran was invited to the April 17 TEDx, a program of local, self-organized events designed to spark deep discussion, to explain his We Need Trees project. He included Gunn to tell his story as well for the event, which is themed “Tipping Point.”

It’s not the first time the two have collaborated.

Last year, they joined forces for the Wheels For Peace project to share artwork and letters between the two countries. The initial plan was for Tajeran to come to the United States, but his visa was denied.

So Gunn decided to go to Iran. However, he, too, was unable to secure a visa.

“Here we were, two friends, who couldn’t get into each other’s countries,” Gunn said.

They settled on riding across the Iranian island of Qeshm, where visas aren’t required. The TEDx Talk will be on Kish, a similar island, where Gunn won’t need a visa.

However, just finding out about the opportunity a little over a week ago, he said he’ll need help with his travel expenses, which he estimates to be around $2,500.

His hope is he’s going to help change the image of people in both countries of one another. And, through social media, he said, he’s already seeing it happen.

“I’m seeing friends of friends on both sides having one-on-one conversations,” he said. “That’s what I want to see continue.”

Teri Vance is a journalist, freelance writer and native Nevadan. Contact her with column ideas at terivance@rocketmail.com.


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