Art Uncovered - The Oldest Living Things in the World

Premiere DateSep 9, 2014
00:00 The Oldest Living Things
02:11 Deep Time
04:08 Individuals
06:27 9550 years old
08:37 Obscuring Time
11:17 Stromatalites
13:31 Oldest of the Old
14:57 The Humungus Fungus
17:26 Working With Scientists
19:50 Swimming in Antarctica
22:29 Ten Years in the Making
29:05 Finish

Spruce Gran Picea, 9,550 years old, Sweden

For the last 10 years, photographer Rachel Sussman has been traveling the world to photograph the oldest living things on the planet. All the organisms in Rachel’s photographs are more than 2000 years old, and among her subjects are a 9000 year-old Swedish Spruce tree, a 2500 year-old carnivorous fungus, and 5000 year-old Antarctic moss. Other photographs show us organisms with even longer lifespans. A colony of Aspen trees (80,000 years old) was around during the time of the Neanderthals. Then, there’s the bacteria living in the Siberian permafrost that pre-dates the human race. It was originally discovered by biologists looking for clues to life on other planets. They suspect the bacteria to be about half a million years old.

Photographs of these organisms and many others can be found in Rachel’s book, The Oldest Living Things in the World. Along with the images, the book includes a collection of essays that discuss these ancient organisms in terms of the environment, deep time, and our puny human live spans.

This week, the largest exhibition to date of The Oldest Living Things opens in Brooklyn, and I recently met up with Rachel to chat about the project.

Welwitschia Mirabilis, 2,000 years old, Nambia

Stromatolites, 2,000 – 3,000 years old, Western Australia

Siberian Actinobacteria, 400,000 – 600,000 years old

Pando, Clonal Colony of Quaking Aspen, 80,000 years old, Utah

Japanese Cedar, 2,180 – 7,000 years old, Japan


Host Thomas
Thomas grew up in Northern California where he fell in love with music and photography while going to punk shows and shooting skate photos. He photography in college, which may or may not qualify him to host an…