Cutting-edge Technology Captures Ancient Story

The Adventist Communication Network (ACN) and It Is Written Digital Media Group (IIWDMG), Vancouver, Wash., partnered to capture authentic images of Bible characters in a project called FACES:Biblical Folks that will bring new artwork for pastors, teachers and lay people to use in telling the old, old story. "Pastors from across the North American Division have been begging for fresh, contemporary photographs illustrating Bible stories," said Dave Gemmell, project director.

The project used the absolutely latest digital cameras to capture the faces of ancient history-makers for one November week in the desert near Las Vegas. "ACN is impassioned to provide the very latest digital resources for growing healthy congregations," said Jere Wallack, project producer.

Irony reigned throughout the project. The archaic faces of the Bible were digitized on microchips. Today's everyday folks became the authentic people of scripture. The desert of ultra-modern Las Vegas—"Sin City"—brought to life the timeless story of righteousness. The Las Vegas wash became the cleansing Jordan River, and man-made Lake Mead became the God-used Sea of Galilee.

Scores of members from the Mountain View Church in Las Vegas lent their faces to the project. Often the day started at 3:15 a.m. as these volunteers drove to the shoot location and rushed through wardrobe, make-up and props.

Photographer Erik Stenbakken used his artistic skills to capture the faces of Biblical folks with his 11-megapixel digital camera, resulting in nearly 35 gigabytes of photos.

Why would people take off work to subject themselves to sleep deprivation, endless waiting and face plastering? "It was a profound spiritual experience!" said Rachel Handley as she tearfully relived the story of Naomi and Ruth.

Many more tears flowed freely as the crucifixion was graphically recreated. "This experience changed my life," said Dave Everts, after he allowed his head to be shaved in order to relive the troubles of Job and the agony of the thief on the cross.

The volunteer models pray that their faces will draw thousands of people to God’s love as viewers see how heaven graciously accepted every character of the Bible. The first images will be released later in 2004.

However, the impact on many unchurched individuals was immediate. Actor Andrew Curby learned for the first time the story of Jesus as he portrayed the healing of the sick, feeding of 5,000 and hung on the cross. Peter Field Peck, a freelance photographer from New York, was so captured by the irony of the project that he flew to Las Vegas to shoot a documentary of Stenbakken doing his work.

"The week was filled with miracles," said associate producer Stacia Dulan. "We had ideal weather, picture-perfect sunrises and sunsets, and a great team of models."

The ACN/IIWDMG team was hoping for 200 to 300 photographs, but more than 6,500 images were captured. "These are awesome, story-telling pictures," says Wallack. "They will make an impact for God for many years to come."

Copyright photos owned by and printed with the permission of Adventist Communication Network and Stenbakken Photography.

March 01, 2004 / World Church

Jere Wallack, NAD associate communication director for ACN and Dave Gemmell, ACN associate director