Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Capturing the world's oldest living things

This was just too amazing not to re-post from CNN.  I have some photo books in the back of my mind I'd like to do also in the not-too-distant future.  I think Rachel Sussman definitely deserves as much attention as possible with this project - what a fabulous idea and work she's doing!

Capturing the world's oldest living things
By Dean Irvine, CNNJuly 26, 2010 3:48 a.m. EDT


Rachel Sussman photographs the world's oldest living things

She has traveled across the world to shoot plants over 2,000 years old

She says her project is a celebration of our past and "a call to action now"

Oldest organism she has photographed is 500,000-year-old bacteria in Siberia

(CNN) -- 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."

They live where many other species couldn't even survive, let alone thrive.

--Rachel Sussman, photographer

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.

Plants like llaretta or the welwitschia in Namibia live in extreme conditions, a common theme Sussman discovered while tracking her subjects down.

"They live where many other species couldn't even survive, let alone thrive."

Her next trip will take her to the coast of Spain, where she'll dive to see sea grass estimated to be a mind-blowing 100,000 years old.

"That's really one of the most exciting things about this project; you get to encounter these things that are incomprehensible to our sense of time. What does 100,000 years feel like? It's something we can consider for a moment, but hard for us to hold on to it and for it to be meaningful."

As well as the metaphysical contemplations evoked by her pictures, there is an environmental message from her work. Many of the organisms she has photographed are not in protected areas or are in places experiencing a potentially damaging change in climate.

"It really varies, from really well protected to being not protected at all and having some sense of peril in fact. In some cases like the Siberian bacteria ... it lives in the permafrost. But if the permafrost isn't permanent, it's a climate change issue and it will die.

"The welwitschia is in national parkland, but that being said, there are mining companies that actually operate in the park. In the U.S., the clonal Mojave yucca and creosote are on land designated for all-terrain vehicle use. There are fences around them, but you have people out four-wheeling around from LA for the weekend."

With 10 more organisms on her list to capture with her lens, Sussman would like international recognition for each of the species she shoots.

"Ideally, I would love it if each of the oldest living things could be afforded UNESCO designation. That's actually become a secondary goal that's come out of the project. They really do deserve our attention and protection."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Learning to brag (just a little)

As of today, I’m putting this on my list of goals for… life. There is a huge difference between arrogance and learning to (moderately) sing your own praises. Personally, I find it difficult to put myself out there, to tell everyone all the work I’ve done, or am doing. I think it’s classy to keep your hand close to your chest instead of holding all your cards out for everyone to see. Yet, those pangs of jealousy roar up in me when someone announces something they’ve achieved or done when a.) it’s something I have also done but didn’t think it needed announcing, or b.) it’s something I am working on achieving. Not sure which entices the hyenas in me to start howling more…

Yes, yes one should rather feel happy, glad for the other person, there’s enough success to go around, but let’s get real. We all feel this. A good remedy for this, particularly within one’s own self, is to sing your own praises in the face of your jealousy. For instance, I logged onto Facebook today and saw that several people had commented enthusiastically in response to another friend’s status who stated she’d written nearly 1,000 words that day! My first thought was, huh, me too. The difference is, she decided to post about it, whereas it never crossed my mind to do so.  And why shouldn't she?  1,000 words is a lot of words to write.  Does she write 1,000 everyday?  Maybe, maybe not.  I write between 500 and 1,000 a day, almost everyday.  I've never posted about any of my work.  So, the fact that someone else should see that their hard work deserves a little praise made me stop and think, why has it never crossed my mind to do this for myself?  Because after all, it's these little milestones, these exercises we do everyday that contribute to a larger work that is gestating as we create and mold it every time we sit down to work on it.  Art, after all, particularly pieces on a grander scale such as a novel, a sculpture, a movie, etc. aren't just plopped out in one afternoon (although some can be), but for those of us working on larger scale works, it's the moving a mountain tale that represents our undertaking (i.e. there's a story about an old Chinese man who decides to move a mountain, which he does with his family by moving stones everyday).  That's what we do everyday, move a stone (or two).  The mountain still looms high overhead, but one day the pinnacle won't be so far. 

This little issue also reminded me that sometimes it’s not enough to praise yourself, to tow the line believing in yourself, being an army of one. It really does help having a little support network, a few (or many, lots, tons!) people there to sing those praises back to you.  Even though as artists we belong to the same community, which means that we get jealous of each other from time to time, there is nothing like having the support of other artists, of talking with other artists because they are going to be the only ones who truly understand what it's like to be an artist, to do what we do everyday.  Nowhere is this more obvious than when you are with 'non-artistic' type people that you really savor the safety and sanctity of your community, where you are sheltered from questions such as, 'Are you published yet?' and 'If you're not published, then how do you know your stuff's any good?' 

Little grenades of venom such as that are just a good reminder that eventually you’re going to have to present yourself to the world, all your hard work, your vision, your art, and when you do, then more than ever you will need your support network.  Not to mention, the ability to brag about how awesome your stuff is!  Because it is - of course it is.

I still find this very difficult, the word ‘braggart’ keeps scuttling through my head like a wild rat, but I am going to make my best effort to make friends with this fuzzy little creature and squeak a few praises about myself every now and then. There’s no time like the present, so here’s my little squeak: I’m on page 156.  Bitches.

This is my all time favorite blog

Wild Turkey Goes on Rampage


I believe this has now been fixed.  I think I had it on some weird setting.  Comment away!!!  (please)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bad, Bad Words

I don't know about you, but I can’t hear or see the word ‘insert’ without immediately being teleported back to fifth grade sex ed class.  I can still hear the phrase 'The man inserts his penis into the woman's vagina.'  Sort of the same way you'd insert a quarter into a gumball machine.  Did I say sex ed?  Pardon me, Sexual Education. Why did teachers have to completely enunciate every word in class? Was it to prolong the agony or was it their way of somehow tricking themselves (and us) into thinking we weren’t all actually in a classroom discussing our uglies? Speaking of ugly, I mean they really are. There’s no word to make these: attachments? Pieces? Sound like they actually belong to us. It’s not like: arm, leg, nose, eye, ear. Dual-syllabic words come dangerously close to stepping across enemy lines: penis? And triple-syllabic? Now we’re speaking alien: vagina? Which makes sense I guess to give the one anatomical feature of our species (women) the most foreign-sounding of names given the lack of knowledge about its function and traits. Hats off to the male species though for splicing their dual-syllabic named icon of manhood in half, to make this anatomical creation more appetizing…to my ear that is. Dick can blend in with our other platonic body parts because of its mono-syllabism: toe, hand, mouth, foot, dick.

Now, for the female anatomy, they’ve only managed to cut off one syllable and still make it sound as if we have some great horn twisting up and out of the side of our head: pussy? There’s something about the S’s in anatomical names that makes us squeamish. It’s our own fault really for defaulting to the male’s nicknaming lexicon. I propose a monosyllabic nickname for our alien-produced cabbage flesh that we too can camouflage amongst the other regular body parts the way men have already done. They have dick, we should have ‘jane.’ Jane isn’t as vomit-inducing as pussy or vajayjay, which I think is the direct result of our own gag-reflex in attempting to address our own body part and not being able to even complete the name without gagging on the ‘jyna.’ You poor women named Gina, I can only imagine the strife this has brought upon you. No one’s named Penis. And, why the short name of Richard is Dick I still don’t get, but at least men felt sorry enough (or perhaps, it was jealousy) for our Gina/vagina trap that they chose a word for their private majors that was also a man’s name.

I know I am going to upset many feminists who may be reading this and saying there’s no reason to refer to our genitals (eeeesh, there’s an S in that word too) by a term that is not clinically-correct, that we should be loud and proud about our va…jayjays, but seriously, how often do you hear women (or men for that matter) discuss them? How often do you hear the word ‘dick’ tossed around like a lost plastic bag? My point exactly. There will also be those of you who think ‘jane’ isn’t regal enough, but that’s the issue. Men think of their dicks like used plastic water bottles, not like some sort of lost treasure that can only be found by Indiana Jones. While it would be lovely if we all grew up referring to our vaginas and penises in a studious, not immature, manner, the truth is we will always be those shellshocked elementary school children reciting the multiplication tables in our heads as our teachers slap pointers against a slide show presentation diagramming the twigs and berries of every boy in the classroom, and the virginal package concealed in the underwear of every girl. The only difference will be that boys will run out of the room shouting at the top of their lungs Penis! Epididemis! Testicle! and Teste! and get off on it, while the girls slink silently into the shadows carrying on our culture of shame. Maybe if we too could have a word, like ‘jane’ to knock our oh-so-sacred virginal vaginas off their mysterious pedestal, we could finally have some common ground to bridge the gap between the sexes. Dick meet Jane, Jane meet Dick. See Dick jump, see Jane skip. See Jane and Dick be friends. (Notice how much more appealing Dick is when he's not so focused on his inserts)


Went to the midnight showing of Salt.  Angelina Jolie - now there's a woman whose still got it! 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

P.S. Thanks Toni...

You are my first follower (well, the first followe who wasn't myself)   :)  Kiitos kiitos kiitos

Sinä olet ihana!


Hei kaikki

I'm jealous of the people in my Finnish class who got to go to Finland this summer.  Not only did they just go for a simple vacation, they went the whole summer???

Jealous, jealous, jealous...

  • Renew passport;
  • Graduate;
  • Go to Finland next summer after graduation (3 months at least - we'll see if I come back)
I'm getting more inspired by some of my derby heroes (Go Swede! and Krissy!) to go on a health kick.  I've never been very good at this, but seeing them post about what they're doing is definitely an inspiration.  Unfortunately, summer has arrived here in Seattle as it tends to do the day after July 4th (why is that by the way?  Do the firecrackers literally crack open the sky?)  Anyway - it's hot!!!  I have a Nordic temperament.  Heat + me = lump.  A lump catching up on Season 3 Gossip Girl and getting ready to watch 'Near Dark.'  How have I never seen this?

Today marks a good day: I've finally started writing again.  Something about deciding NOT to go back to school allowed me to feel a lot more free.  :)

Good things about summer though: I finally found popsicle moulds so I've been making grapefruit juice popsicles AND I got a glass ice tea holder thing and I've made a fantastic batch of sun tea!  So there are some good things about the heat.