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Giant Tortoises in Pond, Alcedo Volcano, Galápagos Islands

The large-format, photographic book, Life: A Journey Through Time, is a lyrical interpretation of the history of life on Earth by master photographer Frans Lanting. “I wanted to tell the story of life from its earliest beginnings to its present diversity by capturing images that evoke nature through time,” says Lanting. “Ever since, I’ve been on a personal journey through time, looking for situations in the natural world that provide a window on its past.”

His search has been wide-ranging and provocative, paralleling new scientific insights about life’s evolution on Earth. He made pilgrimages to remote places in Western Australia where life-forms three billion years old still dominate the landscape. He joined an expedition to a secluded valley of spewing geysers and hissing hot springs in Siberia’s Kamchatka Peninsula for a glimpse of the conditions that may have nurtured the birth of life itself. He immersed himself in museums and research collections to photograph the bewildering shapes of microscopic diatoms, the fluid geometries of oceanic jellies, and to visualize patterns inside the human body as parallels to patterns on the surface of the Earth.

“My approach has been that of a storyteller who draws on characters for the sake of telling a larger tale,” says Lanting. His poem about the story of life, “A Journey Through Time,” leads the book and summarizes the events expressed by the photographs. The book’s first chapter, “Elements,” interprets Earth’s early history and shows interactions among the five classical elements: earth, air, fire, water, and space. “Beginnings” traces life from single-celled origins into more complex forms in the sea. “Out of the Sea” evokes the time when life first ventured ashore; “On Land” covers the period when plants and animals colonized solid ground. “Into the Air” highlights the evolutionary innovations of birds and flowering plants, a chapter that ends with the cataclysmic events that caused the demise of dinosaurs. “Out of the Dark” portrays the rise of mammals, and the concluding chapter, “Planet of Life,” envisions the collective force of life as a sixth element that shapes our planet.

Water Lilies, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Lanting’s remarkable journey through time features more than 175 color photographs, along with his personal essays and stories about the images, as well as a timeline of life’s evolution on Earth and web links for scientific, educational, and conservation resources. The result is a glorious photographic portrait of the magical beauty and enduring miracle of our living planet.

Life: A Journey Through Time has also been presented as a multimedia symphony performance with music by Philip Glass, a touring photographic exhibition, and a dedicated website.

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