Saturday 24 April 2004

The answer

Billboard for www.jesuschrist.org.au showing young woman looking wistfully over her shoulder as she hugs her boyfriend with the ocean in the background and the caption Jesus is the answer

A photographer for nearly twenty years, I thought I could read pictures, particularly easy ones, like advertising billboards. The fact that my alt text is unusually long suggests that this one—or rather its intent—mystifies me:

Billboard for www.jesuschrist.org.au showing young woman looking wistfully over her shoulder as she hugs her boyfriend, with the ocean in the background and the caption "Jesus is the answer"

The Jesus is the Answer website explains:

The Men of Integrity ministry are running a national outdoor advertising campaign called ‘Jesus is the Answer’ using 24 sheet (6 metre x 3 metre) billboards. It is designed to give a stronger voice to Jesus through a simple yet powerful Christian message ‘Jesus is the Answer’.

This campaign aims to reach the majority of hard to get people with time-poor fast-paced lives. Outdoor advertising is seen and remembered by a greater proportion of 16 to 44 year olds. Especially low media consumption youth audiences, time-poor executives, management, professionals, white collar commuters and shoppers of both sexes.

Men of Integrity’s aim is to present Jesus as the answer in an ever increasingly demanding and self centred life. You best serve man by showing him that God remembers and cares about him.

Jesus is the door to love without conditions.

‘Jesus is the Answer’ Billboards will give people the reminder, invitation and open door to come home to Him. So those who feel lonely, judged, separated, suffering with fear may know Jesus’ compassion and unconditional love for them.

Young woman looking anxiously over her shoulder as she hugs her boyfriendI think I’m in some state of awe at how skilfully the photograph—and, by extension, the billboard—has been constructed:

  • the two bodies, merged into one, as a symbol of the love relationship between the girl and her boyfriend;
  • the wistful (regretful? dissatisfied? anxious?) expression on her face, signifying her loneliness, her sense of being judged, her feelings of separation and fear—precisely at the moment most young woman might have imagined as the fulfillment of all their dreams—being held tightly in the arms of the man they love;
  • the limitless ocean of God’s love in the background and the implied suggestion that human love is an illusion, that Jesus’ unconditional love is the only love worth committing to.

It’s undeniable that, for a significant proportion of the population, Jesus is the answer “in an ever increasingly demanding and self centred life”. But isn’t it clear to Christians and non-Christians alike that the engine of our “self-centered life” is fuelled primarily by the relentless pursuit of material things and worldly success? Not by human love and affection, wherever one may find it or however it is expressed.

Am I getting this wrong? Am I missing something?

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© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour