Through a Scanner Brightly – Part 3

The Baha’i Writings say of this day:

“By the righteousness of Mine own Self! Great, immeasurably great is this Cause! Mighty, inconceivably mighty is this Day! Blessed indeed is the man that hath forsaken all things, and fastened his eyes upon Him Whose face hath shed illumination upon all who are in the heavens and all who are on the earth.”
— Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah


Someone wrote me just yesterday: “The use of light in your pictures of birds makes me feel that I have stepped into the Abha Kingdom.”

The translation of the word Abha is The Most Glorious, or more simply the metaphysical world, the world of the soul, what many people refer to conventionally as “heaven.”

I was deeply moved and grateful for their reaction to my photographs. The entire purpose of my bird images is precisely what they stated, namely a feeling, however inadequate, of holiness that words cannot convey. The photography process itself is a meditative act for me. I often achieve a semi-detached mental state when I’m using Photoshop. The process is very abstracted because much of the time I’m only looking at a tiny portion of an image. Thus all I see at that moment are a microcosm of subtle shades and tones that are essentially formless. It’s a contemplative process that paradoxically requires both concentration and a release of concentration to whatever flows naturally and easily. That is the meditative aspect of image processing for me. Because I use a pressure sensitive cordless pen instead of a conventional mouse, my movements and actions are very natural and easy.

As an example I might be looking at something like this:


Here’s the entire image (greatly reduced):


Although conventional wisdom tells us to have the sun over our shoulders when we take pictures I do just the opposite of that. I let sunlight pour through the birds and aim right for the light source. Technically that’s called transillumination or more prosaically just backlighting.

It’s the song that is really important here much more than any of the images. Beauty comes from the music written and sung by Susan Lewis Wright.

Of course, my signature line sums my purpose up very succinctly. It sums up the purpose every Baha’i has when they create music, images, poetry or other writing, and arts or crafts:

“Behind all these manifestations is the one radiance, which shines through all things. The function of art is to reveal this radiance through the created object.”
— Joseph Campbell

“Blessed are those who have fixed their gaze on the realm of glory and have followed the commandments of the Lord of Names. Blessed is he who in the days of God will engage in handicrafts. This is a bounty from God, for in this Most Great Dispensation it is acceptable in the sight of God for man to occupy himself in a trade which relieveth him of depending upon charity. The craft of every craftsman is regarded as worship.”
— Bahá’u’lláh, from a Tablet – translated from the Persian

“O thou servant of the One true God! In this universal dispensation man’s wondrous craftsmanship is reckoned as worship of the Resplendent Beauty. Consider what a bounty and blessing it is that craftsmanship is regarded as worship. In former times, it was believed that such skills were tantamount to ignorance, if not a misfortune, hindering man from drawing nigh unto God. Now consider how His infinite bestowals and abundant favours have changed hell-fire into blissful paradise, and a heap of dark dust into a luminous garden.

“It behoveth the craftsmen of the world at each moment to offer a thousand tokens of gratitude at the Sacred Threshold, and to exert their highest endeavour and diligently pursue their professions so that their efforts may produce that which will manifest the greatest beauty and perfection before the eyes of all men.”
Selections from the Writings of `Abdu’l-Bahá

This is part three of a series of four articles. Click to read part 1 or 2.