Isa Leshko, a photographer, is frightened of growing old. She was “forced to confront her own death” after caring for her mother with Alzheimer’s disease, but she planned to do it in an unexpected way. Leshko began touring farm sanctuaries around the United States to photograph the elderly animals who lived there. However, over the course of nearly a decade, the project’s aim moved from being a vehicle for Leshko’s anxiety to advocacy. She now uses her photographs to advocate for these creatures.
Isa Leshko, a photographer, is frightened of becoming older. She was “forced to confront her own mortality” after caring for her mother with Alzheimer’s disease, but she planned to do it in an unusual way. Leshko began touring farm sanctuaries around the United States to photograph the geriatric animals who lived there. Over the course of nearly a decade, however, the project’s aim moved from being a vehicle for Leshko’s anxiety to advocacy. She now uses her photos to advocate for these creatures.
Allowed to Grow Old, the resulting series, features somber black and white images of the animals in their natural habitat. They provide a dignified yet unflinching look at the difficult life these creatures have led. Buddy (a 28-year-old Appaloosa horse) is blind and has arthritis, while Violet, a 12-year-old potbellied pig, is largely paralyzed. Their stories are heartbreaking, but they are not unusual. “Nearly all of the farm animals I met for this project had been subjected to horrendous abuse and neglect before being rescued,” Leshko adds. “To be in the presence of a farm animal who has lived to old age is nothing short of a miracle.”
Leshko’s regard for her resilient subjects is evident in her approach to photographing them, as evidenced by the devastating photographs. “Rescued farm animals are frequently apprehensive of strangers,” she continues, “and developing a comfortable connection with the creatures I photograph can take several days.” Before taking a single photograph, I frequently spend many hours lying on the ground next to an animal. This allows the animal to adjust to my presence and allows me to be totally there as I learn about her.”
Allowed to Grow Old is now a book with Leshko’s images and biographical information about her subjects. You can order a copy at Amazon.