Special Report

Photos of the World’s Oldest Living Things

Among the organisms documented by photographer Rachel Sussman are 80,000-year-old aspen trees and 600,000-year-old bacteria

Welwitschia mirablis (Rachel Sussman)


(Rachel Sussman)
In 2004, Rachel Sussman, a Brooklyn-based photographer who is a mere 37 years old, visited a Japanese cedar rumored to be 7,000 years old. Imbued with a sense of the fragility and persistence of life, she began a mission of researching and photographing individual organisms that were at least 2,000 years old—“a way of putting human timekeeping in perspective,” she says.

Sussman has now photographed more than 30 ancient organisms as part of her Oldest Living Things in the World project; she will publish a book of her work in the spring of 2014. She traveled to Western Australia to photograph these stromatolites, layered structures built by microorganisms in shallow water, which are roughly 2,000-3,000 years old.

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