Isa Leshko has created a series of beautifully executed documentary photographs called “Elderly Animals” in which she confronts issues of aging and mortality. The inspiration for the project was her own mother’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease.
Elderly Animals Project
I am traveling to sanctuaries across the country to photograph geriatric animals. I began this series shortly after I had spent a year helping my sister care for our mom who had Alzheimer’s disease. The experience had a profound impact on me and forced me to confront my own mortality.
Handsome One, Thoroughbred Horse, Age 33
Many of the animals who were photographed for this project were reared on factory farms before they were rescued and placed into sanctuaries. Others were beloved pets who were well cared for since an early age. Some of the animals in these images appear to be quite frail; others seem youthful despite their advanced ages.
Rooster, Age Unknown
In order to achieve a sense of intimacy in these portraits, I spend several hours with the animals I photograph and I try to visit them multiple times. Depending on the animal, I may spend an hour or so simply lying on the ground next to the creature before I take a single image. This approach helps the animal acclimate to my presence and it allows me to observe the animal without being focused on picture taking.
Blue, Australian Kelpie, Age 19, I
I am creating these photographs in order to take an unflinching look at aging. Both my maternal grandmother and mom died from complications relating to dementia. I am scared of developing Alzheimer’s disease and I get nervous whenever I lose my keys or forget a person’s name. Photographing geriatric animals enables me to immerse myself in my fear of growing old. I have come to realize that these images are self-portraits. Or at the very least, they are manifestations of my fears and hopes about what I will be like when I am old.
Ash, Domestic White Turkey, Age 8, II
I also want my images to inspire greater empathy toward animals, particularly farm animals. It is very rare for a farm animal to actually live its full natural lifespan given that most of these animals experience brutality and death early in their lives. By depicting the beauty and dignity of these creatures in their later years, I want to encourage people to question and challenge the way farm animals are currently treated.
Teresa, Yorkshire Pig, Age 13
Houston Center for Photography Fellowship Exhibit Installation. Photo courtesy of Laura Corley Burlton.
Isa Leshko with her dealer Richard Levy at the Miami Project Art Fair in 2013. Image courtesy of the Richard Levy Gallery.
Isa Leshko signing prints with Paul Sneyd (master printer and owner of Panopticon Imaging) at Panopticon Imaging. Photo courtesy of Panopticon Imaging.
Image credit: Unless otherwise stated, images are Copyright Isa Leshko. All Rights Reserved.