The Oldest Living Things in the World

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9780226057507: The Oldest Living Things in the World

The Oldest Living Things in the World is an epic journey through time and space. Over the past decade, artist Rachel Sussman has researched, worked with biologists, and traveled the world to photograph continuously living organisms that are 2,000 years old and older. Spanning from Antarctica to Greenland, the Mojave Desert to the Australian Outback, the result is a stunning and unique visual collection of ancient organisms unlike anything that has been created in the arts or sciences before, insightfully and accessibly narrated by Sussman along the way.
 
Her work is both timeless and timely, and spans disciplines, continents, and millennia. It is underscored by an innate environmentalism and driven by Sussman’s relentless curiosity. She begins at “year zero,” and looks back from there, photographing the past in the present.  These ancient individuals live on every continent and range from Greenlandic lichens that grow only one centimeter a century, to unique desert shrubs in Africa and South America, a predatory fungus in Oregon, Caribbean brain coral, to an 80,000-year-old colony of aspen in Utah. Sussman journeyed to Antarctica to photograph 5,500-year-old moss; Australia for stromatolites, primeval organisms tied to the oxygenation of the planet and the beginnings of life on Earth; and to Tasmania to capture a 43,600-year-old self-propagating shrub that’s the last individual of its kind. Her portraits reveal the living history of our planet—and what we stand to lose in the future. These ancient survivors have weathered millennia in some of the world’s most extreme environments, yet climate change and human encroachment have put many of them in danger. Two of her subjects have already met with untimely deaths by human hands.
 
Alongside the photographs, Sussman relays fascinating – and sometimes harrowing – tales of her global adventures tracking down her subjects and shares insights from the scientists who research them. The oldest living things in the world are a record and celebration of the past, a call to action in the present, and a barometer of our future.

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Product Description:

The Oldest Living Things in the World is an epic journey through time and space. Over the past decade, artist Rachel Sussman has researched, worked with biologists, and traveled the world from Antarctica to the Mojave Desert in order to photograph continuously living organisms that are at least 2,000 years old. The result is a stunning and unique visual collection of species unlike anything that has been created in the arts or sciences before.

Sussman’s work is both timeless and timely, and the book spans disciplines, continents, and millennia. Underlying the work is an innate environmentalism driven by Sussman’s relentless curiosity. She begins at “year zero,” and looks back from there, photographing the past in the present.  The ancient subjects live on every continent and range from Greenlandic lichens that grow only one centimeter per century, to unique desert shrubs in Africa and South America, a predatory fungus in Oregon, Caribbean brain coral, and an 80,000-year-old colony of aspen in Utah. She journeyed to Antarctica to photograph 5,500-year-old moss; Australia for stromatolites, which are organisms tied to the oxygenation of the planet and the beginnings of life on Earth; and Tasmania to capture a 43,600-year-old self-propagating shrub that’s the last of its kind. These portraits reveal the living history of our planet—and what we stand to lose in the future. These ancient survivors have weathered millennia in some of the world’s most extreme environments, yet climate change and human interaction have put many of the species presented here in danger. Two of her subjects have already met with untimely deaths.

Alongside the photographs, Sussman combines tales of her global adventures tracking down these subjects with insight from the scientists who are studying them and their environments. The result is an original index of millennia-old organisms that provides a record and celebration of the past, a call to action in the present, and a barometer of our future.

About the Author:

Rachel Sussman is a contemporary artist based in Brooklyn. Her photographs and writing have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Guardian, and NPR’s Picture Show. She has spoken on the TED main stage and at the Long Now Foundation, is a MacDowell Colony and NYFA Fellow and is a trained member of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries in the US and Europe, and acquired for museum, university, corporate, and private collections. She is fiscally sponsored by the Brooklyn Arts Council. To make 100% US tax-deductible donation to support her ongoing work, please visit: http://rachelsussman.com/donate

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