Life: A Journey Through Time
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
June 19, 2010–January 9, 2011
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania… Opening June 19 at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Life: A Journey Through Time interprets Earth’s developmental journey—from the first single-celled organisms to today’s vast array of life forms—through 64 stunning images by renowned nature photographer Frans Lanting. The exhibition is a result of an epic photographic project and is the culmination of Lanting’s personal journey to capture the story of life on Earth. From primordial landscapes to microscopic specimens in museum collections, Life celebrates our planet’s amazing biodiversity through educational and inspiring stories and images.
“In Frans Lanting’s photography, we are afforded glimpses into the extraordinary beauty of our planet. His images capture both intimate and monumental moments in the saga of evolution, which inspire and motivate us to become stewards and caretakers of our natural heritage,” said Director of Carnegie Museum of Natural History Samuel Taylor, PhD.
For more than 20 years, Lanting has documented nature and science to convey the wondrous processes of life on our planet. Life: A Journey Through Time is the culmination of Lanting’s very personal six-year undertaking, in which captivating imagery and thought-provoking commentary convey current scientific thought about the origins and evolution of life on Earth. His goal was to use photography to find windows to Earth’s past and present. Capturing plants, animals, and natural phenomena in brilliant detail, Lanting’s images offer glimpses into the history of our planet’s development. The exhibition’s imagery and text are drawn from Lanting’s book of the same name.
The photographic journey begins with the transformation of single-celled organisms into more advanced oceanic life forms, and the transition of these early creatures to life on land. This adaptation spreads with the movement of plants and animals across the continents and with the development of those continents during the rise and fall of the dinosaurs. As the timeline nears our own phase of modern existence, the images become simultaneously more familiar and more exotic: animals adopt new and fantastic variations, the earth’s crust cools into bizarre and beautiful formations, and plants find unlikely niches in which to thrive.
Lanting’s destinations included some of the harshest and most remote locations on the planet. He trekked to western Australia to examine some of the world’s only living stromatolites. These layered, rock-like living structures are composed of a type of bacteria that has existed for more than three billion years ago and which are the oldest record of life on Earth. In the Valley of Geysers in Kamchatka, Russia, Lanting photographed active geologic displays that provide a glimpse of the cataclysmic events that spawned the planet on which we now live. Lanting also delved deep into museum collections to study and photograph patterns of microscopic organisms and human anatomy, and later identified similar patterns on a larger scale across the surface of the earth.
Further illuminating Earth’s story are the photographer’s personal essays about photographing—and seemingly defying—nature. One such moment occurred while Lanting was filming a volcanic event, when he decided it was worth sacrificing his camera in the hope of capturing the perfect image. He left the camera exposed to the volcano’s corrosive gases. While the camera was destroyed, the film itself was salvaged and the breathtaking image preserved.
Lanting frames the exhibition in terms of five basic elements that he says make up the universe: earth, water, fire, air, and space. In addition, Lanting states that there is a sixth element, a “collective force of life,” that both grows from and sustains the other five elements. Together, the photographs selected for Life: A Journey Through Time, provide an inspiring view of the powerful yet delicate interplay among Earth and its inhabitants.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, is ranked among the top five natural history museums in the country. It maintains, preserves, and interprets an extraordinary collection of 20 million objects and scientific specimens used to broaden understanding of evolution, conservation, and biodiversity. More information is available by calling 412.622.3131 or by visiting the Web site at www.carnegiemnh.org.