‘Abdu’l-Baha with Flowers

In 1972 I took a close-up Kodachrome photo of a painting of ‘Abdu’l-Baha that hung in the home of Margaret Gallagher, a Baha’i Auxiliary Board Member in Hayward, California. Then I went out to her garden, noticed bright red flowers with sunlight streaming through them and double-exposed them on the same frame. Several years later I made a high-resolution scan from a color negative copy of my original 35mm slide. The original had been irretrievably damaged by a flood.

The original painter’s name was Samimi. Download a document in Adobe PDF format for more information about the painter. The right half of the image consists of the flowers I added when I took the photograph. The photograph was a close-up of the painting. The entire painting shows a 3/4 length view of ‘Abdu’l-Baha.

When I was on pilgrimage in 1974, I brought 200 copies of the photo with me at the request of Hand of the Cause A. Q. Faizi. He gave them away during his many teaching trips around the world. Though he asked me to sign the backs of the photos I preferred to remain anonymous. Among my treasures are some hand-illuminated letters that Mr. Faizi wrote me in the 1970’s including a comment on the image of ‘Abdu’l-Baha with Flowers. You can find the letters online at the Bahai-Library site in an unpublished book of his letters edited by Shirley Macias.

I offer this image to everyone for free with certain conditions. I don’t accept payment for copies for any reason. You may freely distribute it as long as you don’t change it in any way and you attribute the source (www.enochsvision.com, Cary Enoch Reinstein). You may not exploit or sell it for any amount of money or any reason. You may not publish this image on any website or social network without my prior permission in writing. However, please feel free to link to this page.

There is an important reason why I want to protect this image. It’s simply because I’ve seen so many low quality or badly faded copies of the image over the many years that it’s been circulating. I’ve also seen people try to make a profit from poor quality copies. Except for minor printing costs if you don’t print it yourself, you should not have to pay for it. The picture is essentially just a derivative image (and a serendipitous one at that) that became very popular over a long time and acquired some distinctly odd and wildly inaccurate lore along the way. Some of it is pretty amusing. This assures that you’ll get the best quality for personal printing because it’s from the original source. This image, though it will always be free of charge, is not in the public domain. You can read the terms of use in the downloaded files. Do not change or edit the accompanying text documents. If you find an error then please feel free to contact me about it.

There are many quality printing sites where you can make your own prints both online and in retail stores. Download a 10MB Zip file containing three different size copies suitable for printing at high quality on standard  photographic papers. The Zipped collection also has expanded commentary on the image including permitted usage statements as well as guidance on portraits of ‘Abdu’l-Baha from the Baha’i World Center. They explain yet another reason why not to sell or exploit it in any way since real photographs of ‘Abdu’l-Baha are preferable.

‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Ministry of Flowers

“‘Abdu’l-Baha’s personal wants were few. He worked late and early. Two simple meals a day sufficed Him. His wardrobe consisted of a very few garments of inexpensive material. He could not bear to live in luxury while others were in want. He had a great love for children, for flowers, and for the beauties of nature. …”
In Galilee, p. 51.

“The ‘ministry of flowers’ was a feature of the life at ‘Akka, of which every pilgrim brought away fragrant memories. Mrs. Lucas writes: — ‘When the Master inhales the odor of flowers, it is wonderful to see him. It seems as though the perfume of the hyacinths were telling him something as he buries his face in the flowers. It is like the effort of the ear to hear a beautiful harmony, a concentrated attention!'”
A Brief Account of My Visit to ‘Akka, pp. 25-26.

“He loved to present beautiful and sweet-smelling flowers to His numerous visitors.”
Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era


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.