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LuminousSpot.com is an absolute treasure trove of photographs of the Shrine of Baha’u’llah and the Shrine of the Bab (Their final resting places in Israel). It also features photos of Baha’i Holy Places (places of historical and spiritual significance to Baha’is) and of several Houses of Worship. The website is the work of Farzam Sabetian and it is truly a gift: the photographs featured there can be downloaded and used freely (the clear conditions for use are stated when you first visit the site).
My heart was really touched by Farzam’s incredible generosity and by the beauty of his work. I was thrilled when he agreed to tell us a little bit about the website. Before we get to the interview, here is a small sampling of his work.
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
It’s a bit hard to talk about myself since it’s not something I like to do, rather I like to think about others and how to be of any service to them. Anyhow, here is my attempt: I was born and raised in Guatemala. My parents pioneered from Iran in the late 1970’s, they met here in Guatemala, as destiny some may say, but we know for certain it was Divine Intervention. I studied industrial engineering with a postgraduate in international logistics. I’ve been interested in arts since very little, starting with music and expanding to photography and calligraphy along the way.
Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us a little about your website, Luminous Spot?
Luminous Spot is a website created to share the beauty of the Baha’i Holy Places, beauty that we know is only but a symbol of the true Beauty that lies within them. You will find photos of the Shrines and the beautiful gardens that surround them, the Arc, the Holy Places where the Central Figures of the Faith had lived in Israel, the Temples and other Holy Places that God has so lovingly allowed me to visit. All are at your disposition and free to download.
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to create it?
In a few words: the desire to do a service to everyone around the world out of love for them, for Baha’u’llah. This will always be the core for everything. But, if you want to be more specific about it then you could say that the idea was initiated for the bicentenary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah. I was serving at the Holy Land and for some time I was trying to capture the spirit of beauty so perfectly portrayed in the Holy Places into photography (this by no means is an easy task, perhaps it’s even impossible). Since I had quite a few pictures, I decided to share them every day for a week before the bicentenary to friends and family, so that it would help them get into the spirit of the celebration. This brought a lot of joy to them and so to me as well. Of course, they shared them with many friends too and since the purpose was to be in that spirit, the more the merrier. Little did I know, these photos traveled everywhere and to people I didn’t know. To this day I have no idea of how many people they were shared with. Many of them started asking for a full quality photo (social media lowers the quality so that it won’t take much space) so that they could use them in their upcoming celebrations. For those that were physically close, it was easy to share the quality they were looking for, but there were so many that were far away and at the time I didn’t have a cloud space big enough to share them. It broke my heart that I couldn’t fulfill this wish of so many. Words of the Hidden Words came to my mind and heart ” O Son of Man! Deny not My servant should he ask anything from thee, for his face is My face”. So, in order to fulfill this desire, for their desire I saw as the desire of Baha’u’llah, I started to think of what was the best way to share them. Many things came to my mind (buying cloud storage, use a photo gallery service, etc.) — all very good in their own way, but there was one thing that my heart couldn’t just accept, and that was, in my personal way of looking at it, that none of them felt dignified enough for photos of such holy places, or to show the beauty of them. It’s no wonder that we try to adorn something beautiful with more beauty, especially if it means so much to so many. The more I researched the more it became evident that if it doesn’t exist, then it must be created. This site needed to not only show the photos in a beautiful way but to make them available to download for free to anyone that needed them, be it for their houses, Baha’i Centers, presentations of the Faith, of the history of the Faith and the Central Figures, for any kind of art and inspiration that would draw from the Writings or for the love they have for the Faith, to remember the majesty and the feelings that they might have had the last time they were there, to bring them closer to the Central Figures of the Faith if they have never been there, and perhaps to inspire them to make an effort and sacrifice to go for pilgrimage. Thus it started a whole process of developing a space where all of these things could combine, giving birth to the site that is today.
The only condition I thought of trying to make sure everyone reads, accepts, and thinks of is that the photos may not be used in a way that the wonderful and joyful spirit of the Faith be tainted. In other words, the photos are to be used in a way that each and everyone feels like it’s a dignified way of using them. Of course, this is a concept that in practice will have a different way of being expressed by each individual. It has to do with the way we approach what is holy and divine and that is a relationship that within each heart is different and beautiful. There’s no way I want to have control over it, knowing full well that these expressions are something I consider as holy since they come from the heart, but to think of these concepts before using them is an important step to make that expression show its true beauty. It honors me, and I’m grateful to Baha’u’llah that the photos I took, which are by themselves a way to look through my eye at the Holy Places (as lowly as it may be) be used for such a lofty purpose by others and that they find them good enough for those expressions of love.
Baha’i Blog: What is your creative process like as a photographer?
Photography, as any art form, will always be a reflection of yourself. What you think and what you feel at a particular moment of your life, this is what it will always show. For me, it has been the attraction to beauty, but not any beauty, is a pursuit to show the beauty God has given to people, to places, to nature. To find beauty in this way one must be in a constant state of trying to detach yourself with anything that may intervene with your heart and the love of God. If by any reason I’m having trouble feeling this way or even trying to detach, then the photos I take won’t come the way I like them. So first thing for me is to prepare my heart and my mind in that way, always before taking photos. I’m not sure how it is for every photographer but for those who know me, are familiar with the fact that I always carry the camera ready in case I find something that could show this concept of beauty. One is to look for beauty the way we try to be closer to the our Beloved, and this is so poetically described in The Seven Valleys, on the very first one: the Valley of Search, and with this we understand that it can be found anywhere, anytime, at any given moment. It could be the sky, a landscape, a small flower, a sunset, a smile, a look into someone’s eyes, a way to hold hands, an act of generosity, the cleanliness of a space, symmetry, shapes and forms that evoke feelings and thoughts that are elevated. Anywhere you look, you can find it, how to find it will depend on the condition of your heart and mind. Technical aspects such as the rule of thirds, getting your horizons straight, etc. will come in handy but it is good to understand that these methods are there as a tool and by no means are they a formula to show beauty. One thing that is definitively important for me is to look for new ways to show what I’m seeing, that means most of the time trying new things with photography, there is an infinite amount of ways to show this understanding of beauty and this keeps the fire always alive.
Baha’i Blog: What are some words of encouragement you might give to someone interested in pursuing the arts/photography?
Let these words of the Blessed Beauty resonate within your heart:
“One of the names of God is the Fashioner. He loveth craftsmanship. Therefore any of His servants who manifesteth this attribute is acceptable in the sight of this Wronged One. Craftsmanship is a book among the books of divine sciences, and a treasure among the treasures of His heavenly wisdom. This is a knowledge with meaning, for some of the sciences are brought forth by words and come to an end with words.”
“The purpose of learning should be the promotion of the welfare of the people, and this can be achieved through crafts. It hath been revealed and is now repeated that the true worth of artists and craftsmen should be appreciated, for they advance the affairs of mankind. Just as the foundations of religion are made firm through the Law of God, the means of livelihood depend upon those who are engaged in arts and crafts. True learning is that which is conducive to the well-being of the world, not to pride and self-conceit, or to tyranny, violence and pillage.”
Art brings so much joy, not only to the artists, but to all of those who are exposed to it. It adorns the world with beauty that only human beings are able to show, it is such a powerful thing that it can elevate a heart and make it feel closer to the Beloved. Find your way to express these wonderful feelings that you have in any expression of art you feel more comfortable using, let it be a service to other, to uplift their spirits, and for the betterment of the world. For through art, certainly the world becomes the most wonderful place to live.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much, Farzam, for sharing this with us and for sharing your site with the world! To see and learn more, please visit LuminousSpot.com.
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