Since 2004, Brooklyn-based contemporary artist Rachel Sussman has researched, collaborated with biologists, and braved some of the world’s harshest climates from Antarctica to the Mojave Desert in order to photograph the oldest continuously living organisms on Earth. This includes plants like Pando, the “Trembling Giant,” a colony of aspens in Utah with a massive underground root system estimated to be around 80,000 years old. Or the dense Llareta plants in South America that grow 1.5 centimeters annually and live over 3,000 years. This is the realm of life where time is measured in millennia, and where despite such astonishing longevity, ecosystems are now threatened due to climate change and human encroachment.
Sussman’s photographs have now been gathered together for the first time in The Oldest Living Things in the World, a new book published by the University of Chicago Press. Sitting at the intersection of art, science, and travelogue, the book details her adventures in tracking down each subject and relays the valuable scientific work done by scientists to understand them. It includes 124 photographs, 30 essays, infographics and forewords by Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Carl Zimmer.
Update: Rachel Sussman was just named a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow.