In 2004, Rachel Sussman, a Brooklyn-based photographer, 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.
Sussman’s project the ” Oldest Living Things in the World ” has taken her all over the world in search of ever-older living things to photograph. Although most of her subjects are trees, there are also photos of organisms like the Siberian Actinobacteria, which is approximately half a million years old, and rare Arctic lichens, that come in at a mere three thousand years old.
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.
Some of the oldest organisms live in the world’s most fragile ecosystems. This 2,200-year-old Antarctic moss (green, in the background) was photographed at Kanin Point, on South Georgia Island off of Antarctica. Climate change threatens local ecosystems around the globe, especially those at the poles.