Capturing the world's oldest living things

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Rachel Sussman is a time traveler. For the last few years, the American photographer has journeyed across the globe on a mission to bring back images of the world's oldest living organisms.

In her ongoing project, Sussman has traveled to the primal landscapes of southern Greenland, the timeless high-altitude Andean deserts of South America and even under the ocean.

"[The project] is a celebration and record of our past, a call to action now, and also a barometer of our future," she told CNN.

Sussman began her time-traveling trips in 2004 while visiting the island of Yakushima in Japan to see a reportedly 2,200-year-old tree. On her return to the U.S., the idea to photograph an example of other long-living ancient species germinated and grew.

"It's been a fantastic learning experience and so unexpected," said Sussman. "[These organisms] have never been cataloged in this way; there isn't a global species longevity catalog."

Sussman's ancient organisms are continuously living and are genetically identical individuals.

So far, she has shot more than 25 different species of plant or organism, each being older than 2,000 years -- "I wanted to start with the idea of 'year zero' " -- with the oldest being actinobacteria from the permafrost of Siberia estimated to be around 500,000 years old.
After initial research on the Internet to track her subjects down, Sussman contacted scientists who were studying the species she wanted to photograph.
"Nine times out of 10, they're thrilled that someone outside of their field is interested in this esoteric work that they're doing," said Sussman.

"Then once the word got out there, people started contacting me."

Sussman discovered the llaretta in the Atacama Desert -- a relative of parsley that resembles a large green rock-- from a comment left on her blog after announcing she was going to Chile....

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