Lava flow next to a waterfall

These beautiful landscapes hold secrets to the origins of life

A photographic odyssey explores the places on Earth that showcase our unique planet’s evolutionary journey.

Evoking a scene from Earth’s past, lava flows from a fissure in Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano during a 2010 eruption. The lava filled a gorge that had been carved out over centuries by shifting tectonic plates and gushes of glacial water.

These photographs take us on a journey through Earth’s history. Like an open book, our planet reveals the primordial geophysical processes that culminated in the emergence of life.

“This journey through time, space, and diversity seeks to strengthen our bond with nature and inspires respect for the Earth,” says French photographer Olivier Grunewald. For 30 years he and his partner, conservationist and writer Bernadette Gilbertas, have traveled the world, documenting the places that best express the forces that shaped our unique planet, the basis of their Origins project. Ours is a rocky planet, born out of chaos. Driven by evolution, it’s home to diverse habitats and millions of species. One of those is our own, Homo sapiens, captivated by Earth’s wonders—and just as capable of razing them.

Concerned by climate change and other environmental issues, Grunewald and Gilbertas channeled their energy into creating a tribute to our fascinating sphere. “It took 4.5 billion years to forge this lush, bountiful, and welcoming planet,” Grunewald says. “Now what will we do? Will we continue to spur the ecological crisis, or will we finally decide to prevent the worst?”

Read This Next

225-year-old working warship sustained by a Navy forest
Can today's youth overcome widespread climate anxiety?
To discover wild America, follow Bigfoot’s mythical steps

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet