Lynn Alleva Lilley – Deep Time

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Review by Douglas Stockdale •

Ham and eggs. A wonderful breakfast in which it is said that the pig is fully committed, while the chicken is only involved. In the mid-1970’s endotoxin testing was in transition from using white bunnies to using Limulus amoebocyte lysate (LAL), a test method derived from the blood of Horseshoe Crab. And similarly, the bunnies were fully committed for this test method, while the Horseshoe Crabs are only slightly involved.

As a scientist I am very intrigued by Lynn Alleva Lilley’s Kickstarter project last year for her book Deep Time in which she investigates the history and nature of Horseshoe Crabs (which is not a true crab) which is one of the four species found off the Eastern coast of the Untied States near her home. I was richly rewarded when the project was fully funded, the photography, writing and book design completed and the ensuing book arrived hot off the press. Much earlier in my career I was working for one of the pharmaceutical companies that led the conversion to LAL endotoxin testing. It was a special delight to destroy that obsoleted bunny ranch for another more humane use.

This book is a really wonderful blend of where nature, history and science intersect. When such a project is completed with artistic sensibilities it results in creating a very compelling narrative. Lilley provides a rich history and reveals an intimate life cycle of the Horseshoe Crab, a story that is situated in a beautiful environmental context, a place where man and nature collide. Fortunately, as of late, for the betterment of the Horseshoe Crab.

Lilley develops a historical narrative about this diminutive creature that stretches back in deep time to 440 million years ago. The Horseshoe Crab is a primitive “insect” that survived the most recent mass extinction, “The Great Dying” (Permian-Triassic extinction event), 250 million years ago that wiped out 96% of earth’s living marine species. She provides an intriguing mash-up of historical museum photographs with her own to create a delightfully layered story.

Her photographs of the Horseshoe Crab’s natural environs may or may not always include her subject, as it is not always easy to discern. The visual ambiguity results in the need for a careful reading of her photographs to find her elusive subject, which I find very engaging. She reveals a broader natural environment to help set the stage for where the simple life cycle occurs. I found her captions to be clearly written as to inform the reader, hinting at a scientific text, without diving too far into the technical weeds.

Her book has eight sections to playfully manage the book’s content flow: Strange and Wondrous, A Familiar Sight, Something Infinitely Healing, Reflected Glory, Lunar Gravity, Knowledge of Our World, The Observed and Life Itself. The book is solidly printed and bound and the paper has a slight pearl finish, almost a luster appearance, that makes this book a pleasure to read.

Lynn Alleva Lilley photobook has been featured previously in PhotoBook Journal; Tender Mint 

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Lynn Alleva LilleyDeep Time

Photographer Lynn Alleva Lilley born in Washington D.C. and currently residing Silver Springs, Maryland

Publisher: The Eriskay Connection, Breda, Netherlands, copyright 2019

Essay by Hellen J. Bullard & poem by Jane Hirshfield

Text: English

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Hardcover book with slip cover (above), sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed by Wilco Art Books (Netherlands) and bound by Van Waarden (Netherlands)

Photobook designer: Rob van Hoesel

Editing (Narrative Construction): Lynn Alleva Lilley & Rob van Hoesel

Lithography: Colour & Books (Sebastiaan Hanekroot)

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