A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Abdu'l-Baha - pictures of

Anyone who has a question about the appropriate use of the image of the Master in a particular situation is encouraged to consult with his or her Local Spiritual Assembly. While Local Assemblies are entrusted with the task of reviewing all “special materials” created by Bahá’ís for sale and distribution (that is, all items other than literature and audiovisual materials), Assemblies are welcome to contact the National Assembly for guidance if they wish.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to the American Bahá’í Community, November 21, 2011)


Generally speaking, individuals are welcome to make personal use of photographs of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, such as by displaying them in their homes, and to publish them, as appropriate, in books. However, in recent letters written on its behalf, the House of Justice has expressed caution with respect to individuals engaging in the “widespread commercial distribution of photographs of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,” stating that “it is generally not appropriate for individuals to be involved in the marketing of photographs of the Master, a practice that would not be in keeping with the profound respect and dignity that must be accorded to His station.”
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to the American Bahá’í Community, August 16, 2011)


Generally, the question of propriety must be considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the context and circumstances. However, there are certain guidelines which can be recognized as basic to ensuring a dignified and accurate presentation:
According to specific guidance from the Universal House of Justice, it is not acceptable to place a photo of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on the outside cover of a book, nor to represent Him as a character in a dramatic work.
Similarly, it would not be appropriate to include His photo in a flyer or on a publicity poster, nor on any item for common use (such as a cup, keychain, postcard or CD).
In line with our previous letter, drawings or paintings of the Master may not be posted online.
Clearly, the image of the Master should not be used as a name icon on Facebook or similar social-networking services.
Use of the video of the Master is reserved for occasions of utmost reverence and sanctity, as determined by the House of Justice.
(See letter from the National Assembly dated September 23, 2008, on the Administrative Website, www.usbnc.org.)
Use of the audio recording of the Master’s voice is also reserved for special occasions.
(See chap. 10 of Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, also at www.usbnc.org.) Thus, neither the video nor audio recording of Him should be posted online.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to the American Bahá’í Community, November 21, 2011)


In addition, it is important to bear in mind the difference between, on the one hand, actual photographs of the Master and, on the other, paintings, drawings or, photographs of paintings of Him. In a letter written on behalf of the House of Justice to our National Assembly dated May 6, 2009, we received the following guidance: On this point the Guardian’s secretary wrote on his behalf to an individual believer on 11 July 1942:
He was pleased to receive the picture of the Master which your friend made, and though he sees no objection to people having portraits of the Master in their homes, if it gives them pleasure, he prefers that for distribution and for purchase, they should confine themselves to His photographs, as these are, of course, a much more perfect likeness of Him.
(Universal House of Justice to the USA-NSA, 6 May 2009)


In summary, photographs of the Master may be distributed for purchase. Drawings or paintings are to be distributed in a limited way and may not be sold. Photographs of paintings of the Master may not be distributed or sold.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to the American Bahá’í Community, August 16, 2011)


It may not be easy to tell the difference, in some cases, between a photograph of the Master and a photograph of a high quality painting. In accordance with the guidance above, those engaged in the sale or distribution of images of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá should ensure that they are selling photographs and not photographs of paintings.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to the American Bahá’í Community, August 16, 2011)


Questions have also arisen with respect to the colorization or restoration of photographs of the beloved Master. The House of Justice has advised that there is no objection to the colorization of a photographic depiction of the Master, provided that the quality and extent of the coloring would not affect the dignity of the portrait nor violate the integrity of the original photograph. A faithfully rendered colorized photograph may be distributed and sold. The same principle applies to the process of restoration of a photograph, in that the integrity of the historical photograph must be maintained and any digital manipulation of the image should not result in distortion of any element of the original nor violate its natural quality. Colorized or restored photographs of the Master should be submitted to our Review Office for approval. Those engaged in the sale or distribution of such images should confirm that they have been reviewed so as to ensure that the highest standards of accuracy and quality are maintained.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to the American Bahá’í Community, August 16, 2011)


The House of Justice has explained that in keeping with the guidance of Shoghi Effendi the friends are not prohibited from making drawings or paintings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and placing them in their homes. What is not permitted is to widely distribute or circulate copies or photographs of such a painting.
(Universal House of Justice to the USA-NSA, 6 May 2009)


The community is generally mindful that it is not acceptable to represent ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as a character in a dramatic work, to include His photo in a flyer or on a publicity poster, or to place it on the cover of a book or CD, and will no doubt bear these points in mind while considering ways to celebrate and reflect on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit to these shores.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to the American Bahá’í Community, August 16, 2011)


There are, of course, friends working in related fields, such as photography, the graphic arts, or publishing, where selling photos of the Master may naturally form a part of their activities. However, all individuals are asked to limit their efforts in this regard and to avoid practices which would tend to commercialize this sacred image, whether or not financial profit is involved. A spirit of reverence and restraint should be uppermost in the minds of those engaged in any such pursuits.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to the American Bahá’í Community, August 16, 2011)


When considering how to use images of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, we should take caution that the depth of our affection for Him not lead us to a sense of familiarity that becomes casual, inadvertently detracting from the sanctity of His station. It is with a spirit of reverence that we should decide in what manner to share His image, whether in print, for display, or in any electronic format, such as on a web page, a blog, or on any social-networking site.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to the American Bahá’í Community, November 21, 2011)


While the Bahá’ís strive to meet these high standards in the presentation of images of the Master, it is also to be recognized that we live in a world where the very concept of reverence is often mocked, and “freedom of expression” has been taken to such an extreme that it sometimes defeats the values it is intended to protect. In such an environment, it is to be expected that individuals who are not Bahá’ís may sometimes publicize images or materials that the Bahá’ís view as inappropriate. In such cases, it is best not to become overly concerned about the matter, and to strive to effect change by the example we set in the character of our lives and services.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to the American Bahá’í Community, November 21, 2011)