For nearly a decade, Rachel Sussman has been developing the critically acclaimed project “The Oldest Living Things in the World,” for which she researches, works with biologists, and travels all over the world to photograph continuously living organisms 2000 years old and older. Stewart Brand calls her work “the missing science of biological longevity.” She’s received numerous awards, and spoken at TED, The Long Now Foundation, and UCLA, amongst others, and appeared on the air on CNN, BBC, and various public radio programs. Her exhibition record spans more than a decade in museums and galleries in the US and Europe, and her photographs and writing have been featured on global media outlets including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and NPR’s Picture Show. Jerry Saltz says of her work: “These stately pictures quiet the soul…Sussman brings you to the place where science, beauty, and eternity meet.” Her first book is due out in Spring 2014 from the University of Chicago Press.
In these large-scale color images, i aim to further the dialog between aesthetics, content and form. Many of the images have an easy natural beauty, punctuated by human influence that ranges from aesthetic manipulation to terse interruption. Industrial piping snakes through a Japanese garden whose upkeep was left surprisingly visible to visitors. In Barcelona, lush vegetation stays contained, as if following a mandate, behind a sign prohibiting unauthorized entrance. I utilize beauty as a democratic entry point into the content, but that beauty isn’t innocent. In fact, its easy entry is a subversive gateway into layers of epistemological questions about nature, humanity and time. Like the photographs themselves, the idea(l) of ‘Paradise’ is a striving to obtain a past that can never be achieved, because, like the grand editing of our memories and of our cameras, it never really did exist.