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 each animal I photograph. Though the animals in my pictures lack an awareness of their own mortality, they do exhibit a range of emotions—from desolation to joy to defiance.
I am taking these pictures 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.
I am traveling to sanctuaries across the country to photograph 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 helping my sister care for our mom who has Alzheimer’s disease. I am creating these photographs in order to take an unflinching look at aging and mortality. 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’s prints are in numerous private and public collections including the Boston Public Library, the Harry Ransom Center, Haverford College, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Her images have been published in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, The Guardian, Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times, and Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin.
In 2012, Isa received both the Houston Center for Photography Fellowship and the Silver Eye Center for Photography Keystone Award for her Elderly Animals project. She has exhibited her work widely throughout the US, including solo exhibitions at the Corden|Potts Gallery, the Galveston Arts Center, the Griffin Museum of Photography, the Houston Arts Alliance, the Houston Center for Photography, the Silver Eye Center for Photography, and the Richard Levy Gallery.
Isa’s work is represented by the Corden|Potts Gallery in San Francisco, CA and the Richard Levy Gallery in Albuquerque, NM.
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