Through a Scanner Brightly – Part 1

The Baha’i Writings say “Can you paint upon the page of the world the ideal pictures of the Celestial Concourse? The pictures which are in the ideal world are eternal. I wish you to become such an artist. Man can paint those ideal pictures upon the tablet of existence with the brush of deeds.” — ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (Source: Star of the West)

My web site really shows just an impression of my images. It’s important to realize that all of the graphics on my website are actually reduced by a factor of up to 10,000 to 1. The well-known portrait of ‘Abdu’l-Baha With Flowers (photographed in1972) is a 7400px-wide file that is 280 MB file in compressed format. On my website, it’s 360 pixels wide and about 21 KB in size. That is .05% of its original size and .0001% of the real details that it contains. To put it another way, you would need an array of over a dozen 21-inch monitors to see it at its full size. Such reductions are necessary for Web presentations.

To me, the sad part as an artist, is that it is like displaying my photographs across the street from the viewer — behind a smoky glass window — in the rain. Yet it’s necessary because hardly anyone will stick around for an image that takes two or three minutes or more to load. Some specialty photo sites do that but it is rare. I have little doubt that many artists feel about their Web presentations the way that writers do when they see their work dumbed down and heavily abridged for Reader’s Digest.

Another point to consider is that image theft occurs very frequently on the Internet. People copy images and then claim them as their own and sometimes they sell inferior copies of the images that they steal. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá With Flowers is not for sale. It is a derivative work because it is a multiple exposure that includes a small part of a portrait that I did not paint. The actual portrait is nearly full length and has a plain background. If it was not a derivative work I would release it under a “Creative Commons” license. I give copies of this image away freely to anyone who wants to print a copy for their own use. It is not in the public domain so it is illegal to sell copies of it without my knowledge and permission as its creator. Every other work I have done is fully copyrighted.

I have been in people’s homes where I have seen very poor copies of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá With Flowers that are either badly cropped, faded or partially out of focus. I have also heard miraculous tales about its origins by people who did not realize where it came from or that part of it was a painting.

What you don’t see (this is also greatly reduced to fit on this page):


Another part of what you don’t see (this is also greatly reduced to fit on this page):


Full original size:

Full size section

Full size section

What you do see (optimized for the Web; a much larger copy is downloadable for printing):


In the version above I removed the canvas texture and adjusted the color saturation to make the flowers ‘jump’ out. Below is a reduced version of the unedited original Kodachrome II photograph from 1972:


I scanned a Kodacolor negative of the original 35mm slide that I made because the original was too badly damaged to recover. See After The Flood to find out what happened.

Continue on to Part 2 of this theme.