While caring for both of her aging parents, Philadelphia-based photographer Isa Leshko made a conscious decision not to photograph her family. But about a year later, while visiting a friend’s farm, she found herself drawn to an elderly horse. Since then, she has captured dozens of animals in their winter years, including farm animals, horses and dogs. Some of them are factory farm rescues; others beloved pets. Many of the animals passed away shortly after Leshko photographed them. She writes:
I am creating these photographs in order to take an unflinching look at aging and mortality. My maternal grandmother had dementia during her later years, and now my mom has it. 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.
Although Leshko says the project originally began as a form of self-therapy, it evolved into “Elderly Animals,” a traveling photography exhibition that has generated hundreds of emails and letters from viewers, detailing their own experience caring for an elderly animal or looking after an aging parent. Leshko’s photographs are on display in San Francisco from November 7 until January 11, and she will also be exhibiting them in Miami in December.
And here’s a short video by Walley Films depicting how Leshko captures the animals’ essence, and what those subjects mean to her:
More from Smithsonina.com: