Elderly Animals by Isa Leshko
I am traveling to sanctuaries across the country to photograph animals that are elderly or at the end stage of their lives. I began this series shortly after I had spent a year in New Jersey helping my sister care for my mother who has Alzheimer’s disease. When my mother got ill, I made a conscious decision to not photograph her. However, caring for her had a profound impact on me and I knew the experience would influence my photography. Shortly after I had returned from New Jersey, I encountered a blind elderly horse that was living on a relative’s property. I was mesmerized by this animal and spent the afternoon photographing him. After reviewing my film, I realized I had found a project that would enable me to sift through my feelings around my mother’s illness.
Since that first encounter, I have sought out and photographed animals that come from diverse backgrounds so I could examine a range of elderly experiences. Some of these animals have experienced neglect and abuse before they were placed in sanctuaries. Others have been well cared for since an early age. Some appear very old; others are youthful despite their advanced ages.
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 to my equipment. It also allows me to observe the animal without being focused on picture taking.
I am creating these photographs to gain a deeper understanding about what it means to be mortal and to exorcise my fears of aging. 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.
Isa Leshko is a Philadelphia, PA based photographer.
To view more of Isa’s work, please visit her website.
Isa is a 2012 Houston Center for Photography Fellowship Award winner.
Handsome One, Thoroughbred Horse, Age 33
Rooster, Age Unknown
Teresa, Yorkshire Pig, Age 13
Ash, Domestic White Turkey, Age 8 II
Ash, Domestic White Turkey, Age 8 III
Pumpkin, Morgan Arabian Horse, Age 28
Embden Goose, Age 28 I
Embden Goose, Age 28 II
Finn Sheep, Both Age 12
Finn Sheep, Age 12
Blue, Australian Kelpie, Age 19 I
Kiri, Great Plains Wolf, Age 17