Brooklyn-based Rachel Sussman spent 10 years in her epic quest to photograph the oldest living things on the planet, resulting in The Oldest Living Things, the book published by the University of Chicago Press (large format 269 pp), with essays by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Carl Zimmer. She calls herself a contemporary artist; that hardly accounts for the years of study and travel it took her to find and photograph examples of extreme longevity– continuously living organisms that are 2,000 years old and older.
In December Green News Update recommended her book as “Best of the Best” for a 2014 holiday gift. The New York Times this week again has reminded us of what an inspired work it is — compelling theme, great photography and good writing.
Sussman’s pilgrimage began in Japan with a trip to Jomon Sugi, a cypress more than two thousand years old. Where it leads her – from the Antarctic to the Mohave Desert– is for you to find out!
Here’s how she describes her work, “ [It] spans disciplines, continents, and millennia: it’s part art and part science, has an innate environmentalism, and is underscored by an existential incursion into Deep Time. I begin at ‘year zero,’ and look back from there, exploring the living past in the fleeting present. This original index of millennia-old organisms has never before been created in the arts or sciences.”
Beautifully photographed and printed, Oldest Living Things is a book to treasure and pass on to your grandchildren. In a few generations, the “dinosaur species” she has captured – almost all of which are flora and fungi up to 600,000 years old– may succumb to the vagaries of climate change and burgeoning population.
Learn more about Rachel Sussman:
Two videos including TED talk Article in The New Yorker
Wall Street Journal slide show