Isa Leshko – Elderly Animals

“Images of animals are prevalent in popular culture. Generally these depictions are of juvenile animals, or at the very least, animals that are in the prime of their lives. In these images, animals are exoticized, anthropomorphized, and/or infantilized.

This project examines animals who are elderly or at the end stage of their lives. I began this series shortly after I had spent a year in New Jersey caring for my mother who has Alzheimer’s Disease. When my mother became ill, I made a conscious decision not to photograph her. However, caring for my mother had a profound impact on me and I knew I would eventually explore photographically my emotions from this time.

Shortly after I had returned from New Jersey, I encountered a blind elderly horse who was living on a relative’s property. I was mesmerized and felt compelled to photograph the animal. After reviewing my film, I realized I had found a project that would enable me to explore my feelings about my aging parents and my own mortality. As I have worked on this project, though, I have come to realize that these images are also a testament to survival and endurance. My subjects exhibit a range of emotions — from exhaustion to defiance to joy.

For this project, I have traveled to animal sanctuaries across the country to photograph subjects. I have been especially drawn toward photographing farm animals. Because of the nature of their existence, farm animals typically do not live out their natural life spans. I was intrigued to observe and photograph working animals that actually reached a geriatric age. By depicting the beauty and dignity of these creatures in their later years, I hope to challenge assumptions about these animals. However, I plan to photograph for this project a wide range of species, both wild and domesticated.”

Pumpkin, Age 28

Blue, Australian Kelpie, Age 19, I

Teresa, Yorkshire Pig, Age 13

Pooh, Bichon Frise, Age 14

Finn Sheep, Both Age 12

Marino, Bronze Turkey, Age 5

more images on Isa Leshko’s website