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Helping Our Readers Picture the Scene

Many publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses contain colorful pictures that complement the text, but that was not always the case. The first issue of Zion’s Watch Tower, published in 1879, had no pictures. For decades, our publications remained dense with text, with only an occasional illustration or black-and-white photograph.

Many of our publications are now full of pictures. Our own artists and photographers produce much of the artwork and many of the illustrations and photographs that you see in print and on this website. Careful and thorough research is helpful in creating pictures that teach important historical and Biblical truths.

Take for example the picture shown with this article, which originally appeared in chapter 19 of the book “Bearing Thorough Witness” About God’s Kingdom. The setting is ancient Corinth. As described in chapter 18 of the Bible book of Acts, the apostle Paul is before the bema, or judgment seat. Researchers provided the artist with information on archaeological findings related to the positioning and coloring of the marble structures where Paul may have appeared before Gallio. Researchers also provided information on first-century Roman clothing so that proconsul Gallio, in the center of the picture, could be depicted wearing imperial dress. He is wearing a tunic and a toga with a broad purple stripe and shoes called calcei. Researchers noted that when standing on the bema, Gallio would apparently have been facing northwest. Thus, the artist had an idea of what the lighting for the scene should be.

Organized and Efficient

We catalog pictures to document the research and to allow for possible reuse. For many years, we filed artwork and illustrations in large envelopes according to the publication in which they appeared. Photographs were filed by their subject matter. As these files grew, finding or reusing a picture became more and more challenging.

In 1991, we completed a searchable database that met our unique needs. Called the Image Services System, it has now cataloged over 440,000 pictures. In addition to pictures that have appeared in our publications, thousands of additional photographs are also cataloged for use in future publications.

Scores of details—including when and where each picture has been used, names of each model appearing in the picture, and the time period depicted—are all recorded. The ability to find appropriate pictures quickly is useful when new publications are prepared.

Sometimes we license specialized pictures from commercial sources. For instance, perhaps we need a picture of the rings of Saturn for an article in Awake! Our support staff locates an appropriate picture and contacts the owner for permission to use it. In recognition of our worldwide Bible educational work, some give permission freely. Others require that we pay a fee or print a credit line. Once we reach an agreement, the picture is used in the publication and cataloged in our database.

Today some of our publications are composed largely of pictures. For example, on this website we have Illustrated Bible Stories; and here and in print, colorful brochures, such as Listen to God, which teach important lessons with few words. These publications and the rest of our printed and online media all promote the Bible.