Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226057507 Published April 2014
E-book $27.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226057644 Published June 2014

The Oldest Living Things in the World

Rachel Sussman

The Oldest Living Things in the World
Bookmark and Share
See sample images from the book (PDF format).   See a website for the book.

Rachel Sussman

With Essays by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Carl Zimmer
304 pages | 124 color plates, 4 infographics | 11-1/2 x 10 | © 2014
Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226057507 Published April 2014
E-book $27.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226057644 Published June 2014
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.
Charlotte Cotton, author of The Photograph as Contemporary Art
“Something astounding happens when Rachel Sussman photographs the most ancient organisms to be found across our planet. A fraction of a second of time in her photographic exposures animates forms that have evolved across nature's deep time to create a profound experience of being alive. Sussman's ten-year investigation of the symbols of the earth's ecology is rigorous and exploratory, realized with such generosity to the reader and her ambitions make an impossibly vast subject both felt and understood.”
Jerry Saltz, New York Magazine
“The Oldest Living Things in the World serves us the humbling profundity and pathos of things that live almost forever. We see our abstract selves and feel the terrible bludgeon of that which we cannot have and are fated only to behold. Rachel Sussman brings you to the place where science, beauty, and eternity meet.”
Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University
“The Oldest Living Things in the World adds in dramatic manner a fascinating new perspective—literally, dinosaurs—of the living world around us.”
Chris Anderson, TED curator
“Contemplate life through the time scale of The Oldest Living Things, and you'll find your mind expanded and heart inspired. I'm thrilled to see Rachel's powerful TED talk develop and deepen into this captivating book. “
Stewart Brand, cofounder, The Long Now Foundation
“Longevity means continuity. Long-lived people connect generations for us. Really long-lived organisms, like the ones Sussman has magnificently collected photographically, connect millennia. They put all of human history in living context. And as Sussman shows, they are everywhere on Earth. This book embodies the Long Now and the Big Here.”
Paola Antonelli, senior curator, Museum of Modern Art
“I am in awe—awe staring at my planet's old sages, who know the way things were, will be, and should be—awe when I appreciate Rachel Sussman's epic quest to round them all up and her daring in stealing their soul with her photographs.”
Time
“There’s a sense of wonder imbued in these photographs of organisms that seem to be a physical record of time, but there’s also a call to action. Many of these subjects of Sussman’s portraits are under threat from habitat loss or climate change or simple human idiocy.”
Brain Pickings

“Beautiful and powerful work at the intersection of fine art, science, and philosophy, spanning seven continents and exploring issues of deep time, permanence and impermanence, and the interconnectedness of life. With an artist’s gift for ‘aesthetic force’ and a scientist’s rigorous respect for truth, Sussman straddles a multitude of worlds as she travels across space and time to unearth Earth’s greatest stories of resilience, stories of tragedy and triumph, past and future, but above all stories that humble our human lives.”
PetaPixel
“The series, and now book, is part art, part science, and part travelogue, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Because whether you look at these as documentary photography or scientific snapshots of millennia-old species that are now being threatened by the looming specter of climate change, there’s something in this book for everyone.”
Gizmodo
“A gorgeous book of stunning portraits which almost seem to capture the wise, wizened personalities of these scraggy pines, rippling sea grasses, and otherworldly mosses. Accompanying the photo are Sussman’s essays, which serve as both a scientific explainer and a captivating travelogue, transporting the reader to often freakishly remote locations on all seven continents. The book and its subjects are at once inspiring and terrifying—a testament to the resiliency of nature, of course, but also a reminder of its fragility.”
Wall Street Journal
“Photographer Sussman has spent the past decade looking for the oldest things alive. Her search has led her to every continent, to specimens such as a 2,400-year-old fungus in Oregon to an ancient shrub in Tasmania (age: 43,600). She documents 30 of those organisms in her new book, The Oldest Living Things in the World. To find them, she enlisted the help of biologists and explorers—and even collaborated with the Polar Geospatial Center to get arctic satellite maps to reach a rare moss.”
Boston Globe
“The Oldest Living Things in the World by contemporary artist Rachel Sussman features photographs of 30 of the oldest continuously living organisms in the world. They're a dry, scraggly lot, like 5,500-year-old, weather-worn Antarctic moss (first picture, below), and a 2,000-year-old, brittle-looking pafuri baobab tree in South Africa (second picture). Like the very oldest human beings, tucked away in nursing homes, the oldest plants tend to live in out of the way places, stolid in the desert or reproducing slowly beneath the permafrost. But unlike human beings, who fade away, these organisms quietly thrive, diligently repairing their aged molecules and stonewalling generations of pathogens. Most of the time these old things are an afterthought, but collected together, they begin to appear as the main event on earth.”
Science
“Sussman has humbler, nobler designs: creating additional art and advocating for UNESCO recognition for all ancient organisms. God bless her. We need more artists, musicians, dancers, and poets to give humanistic expression to the pursuit of environmental knowledge. I wish major research institutions supported artist-in-residence programs alongside labs. Sussman believes that ‘[t]he best art and science projects enhance and extend each other, bringing something new to both; they are not about simply making the research pretty, or making artworks using novel scientific tools.’ By this measure, The Oldest Living Things in the World is a work for the ages.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Anyone who sees Sussman’s images will be struck by their beauty, but the photos also have the power to make one ponder our fate, and the planet’s.”
Boston Globe
“At a time when science is increasingly specialized, her artist’s vision transcends the divides between disciplines, and she highlights the importance of analyzing longevity across species as a way of understanding our world.”
Boing Boing
“The photos are beautiful, and even more so when you learn how ancient each living thing is. Her youngest subjects are 2,000 years old (such as brain coral she found in Tobago, and a strange exotic plant called welwitschia spotted in Namibia), and these are mere toddlers compared to their elders, like the 80,000-year-old aspen trees from Utah (pictured above) and the 400,000-600,000 year-old continually living Siberian bacteria! A photography book filled only with these incredible miracles of nature would have certainly made for a gem to be displayed. But Sussman surprised me with what most coffee table books don’t do – she told an engaging story, filled with humor, intrigue, and fascinating science, based on her experience over the last 10 years researching, traveling and photographing this book. If Oldest Living Things contained no photos, her story would still easily stand on its own as a captivating memoir … or an engaging science textbook … or both, actually.”
New Statesman
“The images, collected in The Oldest Living Things in the World, are vast in size and accomplishment, the colours startling. Readers are left with a sense of wonder at these miracles and at Sussman’s retelling of her journey.”
Contents

Preface: The World as We Know It
Art Essay: The Future Is Invented with Fragments from the Past
            Hans Ulrich Obrist

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Science Essay: How Lives Become Long
            Carl Zimmer
Infographic 1: OLTW World Map

North America
1                      Giant Sequoia
2                      Bristlecone Pine
3                      Creosote Bush
4                      Mojave Yucca
5                      Honey Mushroom
6                      Box Huckleberry
7                      Palmer’s Oak
8                      Pando
9                      The Senator
10                    Map Lichens
 Infographic 2: Linnean Taxonomy

South America
11                    Llareta (or Yareta)
12                    Alerce
13                    Brain Coral

Europe
14                    Fortingall Yew
15                    Chestnut of 100 Horses
16                    Posidonia Sea Grass
17                    Olive
18                    Spruce
 Infographic 3: Deep Timeline

Asia
19                    Jomon Sugi
20                    Sri Maha Bodhi
21                    Siberian Actinobacteria

Africa
22                    Baobab
23                    Underground Forests
24                    Welwitschia
 
Australia
25                    Antarctic Beech
26                    Tasmanian Lomatia
27                    Huon Pine
28                    Eucalyptus: NSW and WA
29                    Stromatolites

Antarctica
30                    Antarctic Moss
Infographic 4: Growth Strategy

Roads Not (Yet) Taken

Researchers, Guides, Guests, and “A Little Way Through”
Glossary
Chronological Index
Exosystem Index

For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
Google preview here

Chicago Manual of Style |

Chicago Blog: Biology

Events in Biology

Keep Informed

JOURNALs in Biology