Photographer Isa Leshko got terrified of growing old after caring for her mother with Alzheimer's. However, she found a way to face her fear. Leshko started photographing rescued farm animals. Turkeys, pigs, horses, pretty much any critter you can think of who escaped the slaughterhouse or some other grim place.

After nearly a decade of working on the photo series, Leshko has released a wonderful book Allowed to Grow Old: Portraits of Elderly Animals from Farm Sanctuaries and began shifting her approach to the series from dealing with anxiety to activism. The photographer now uses her animal portraits as a way to speak on behalf of these and other abandoned animals.

More info: isaleshko.com | Amazon

#1

Pumpkin, Morgan Arabian Horse, Age 28

Pumpkin, Morgan Arabian Horse, Age 28

Isa Leshko Report

Clarebear
Community Member
10 months ago

Wow she is lovely. She looks so grateful for the kind people who helped her.

Kathy Baylis
Community Member
10 months ago

Beautiful face, with a little grin.

Bharat Singh
Community Member
10 months ago

Its like sending Ferrari to scrap yard.

Erika Leon
Community Member
10 months ago

Growing old is a blessing not many can experience.

Josie
Community Member
10 months ago

is that horse malnourished?

Motherofdogs
Community Member
9 months ago

Arab horses naturally have very fine-boned heads.

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Maper Sam
Community Member
10 months ago

beautiful.

Kevin Wilcoxon
Community Member
10 months ago

She's a beaut.

Trisha Haskett
Community Member
10 months ago

Aka a Morab.

Raine Soo
Community Member
10 months ago

Morgan is a lovely young lady. There is such grace and character in her face.

Raine Soo
Community Member
10 months ago

Oops, I meant to say Pumpkin.

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Kate Kyffin
Community Member
10 months ago

Emotional picture x

Samantha Lomb
Community Member
10 months ago

Morab? Cause Morgan and Arab are two distinct breeds

Luthor
Community Member
10 months ago

She looks so troubled. I'm sorry Pumpkin. I hope you find a better life.

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Leshko approached these black and white photos as fine-art portraits. "In order for an image to appear in my book it couldn't be simply a beautiful photo of a cow or a pig; it had to be a portrait of Bessie or Teresa," she said. "I selected images that revealed something unique about that animal or conveyed emotion. I wanted to viewers of these images to recognize that these adorable animals are sentient beings who think and feel and who want to grow old in comfort, just like we do."

"I think most photography doesn't fall neatly into one box or the other. There are documentary components to the work: in my book I include details about each animal's life before they were rescued. I also included lengthier biographical stories about a handful of animals. But I made creative choices in post-production that I would not have made if these images were documentary photographs. For example, if a background was distracting, I darkened it, or if an animal had straw running along her face in a manner that I think was distracting I removed it. I would never have done this if I viewed the work as a documentary project. I identify primarily as an artist and then as an activist."

#2

Kiri, Great Plains Wolf, Age 17

Kiri, Great Plains Wolf, Age 17

Isa Leshko Report

Harleen
Community Member
10 months ago

Sweet baby! I've been to a wolf reserve....one of them tried to take me to her den because apparently I can't human, and she needed to take care of me LOL Some days, I wish I'd stayed and become one of the pack

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The photographer said that farm animals don't behave uniformly. "Like the dogs and cats we share our homes with, these animals have distinct personalities. Some are very outgoing and affectionate, others are shy and reserved."

Many of the animals Leshko met for her project were rescued from horrific situations involving abuse and neglect. "These animals are trauma survivors, and some are understandably wary of new people. For these animals, in particular, I spent a lot of time with them before even taking a single photo. I often spent days with a single animal to develop a rapport with him. I wanted the animals I photographed to be as relaxed as possible so I could depict their true personalities."

Leshko also didn't want to be in these pictures. She wasn't interested in capturing the animals reacting to her presence. "I wanted to be as invisible as possible so I could observe them behaving naturally and comfortably. If any animal seemed really uncomfortable with me, I would not photograph them. Although animals cannot provide verbal consent to being photographed, they are excellent at communicating when they wish to be left alone."

Also, these photos were not posed. Leshko followed the animals wherever they went. It was important to her that the animals felt in control of the situation and that she photographed them on their terms and not her own. "For this reason, I worked with natural light and did not use any artificial lighting that might be disruptive to the animals. I also photographed the animals at eye-level because I wanted viewers of my images to gaze directly into their eyes. This meant spending hours contorting my body in odd positions while lying in mud and animal scat."

#3

Violet, Potbellied Pig, Age 12

Violet, Potbellied Pig, Age 12

Isa Leshko Report

Bridget
Community Member
10 months ago

so cute!

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After only a few animal shelter visits, Leshko could no longer see a difference between the farm animals she met and the dogs and cats she has known. She even included in her book a handful of portraits of elderly dogs to exemplify this point and to raise questions about why we pamper some animals and slaughter others.

"When reflecting upon the way farmed animals are treated, ask yourself whether you would feel comfortable if dogs or cats were treated the same way. (Note that I do recognize that in some cultures, dogs and cats are treated this way, and the Western revulsion to this treatment illustrates the irrational way in which we categorize some animals as pets and others as food and others as pests.)"

#4

Embden Goose, Age 28

Embden Goose, Age 28

Isa Leshko Report

Kirsten Kerkhof
Community Member
10 months ago

28! I had no idea geese could grow that old!

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"Nearly all of the farm animals I met for this project endured horrific abuse and neglect prior to their rescue. Yet it is a massive understatement to say that they are the lucky ones," the photographer added. "Roughly fifty to seventy billion land animals are factory farmed globally each year. It is nothing short of a miracle to be in the presence of a farm animal who has managed to reach old age. Most of their kin die before they are six months old. By depicting the beauty and dignity of elderly farm animals, I invite reflection upon what is lost when these animals are not allowed to grow old."


#5

Buddy, Appaloosa Horse, Age 28

Buddy, Appaloosa Horse, Age 28

Isa Leshko Report

I love Foxxy
Community Member
10 months ago

What is wrong with the horses eyes or is it just shadowing?

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#6

Bumper, Mixed Breed Dog, Age 17

Bumper, Mixed Breed Dog, Age 17

Isa leshko Report

Luthor
Community Member
10 months ago

Bumper. You matter.

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#7

Babs, Donkey, Age 24

Babs, Donkey, Age 24

Isa Leshko Report

Samantha Lomb
Community Member
10 months ago

Twenties can be just middle aged for donkeys.

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#8

Blue, Australian Kelpie, Age 19

Blue, Australian Kelpie, Age 19

Isa Leshko Report

glorytherainwing
Community Member
10 months ago

awww looks like she just slipped and fell on ice

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#9

Melvin, Angora Goat, Age 11+

Melvin, Angora Goat, Age 11+

Isa Leshko Report

Katelyn J
Community Member
10 months ago

I would love to just sit next to Melvin with a cup of tea and relax. Not say anything, just enjoy life next to him.

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#10

Mariclare, Draft Crossbreed, Age 27

Mariclare, Draft Crossbreed, Age 27

Isa Leshko Report

Ruby
Community Member
10 months ago

Horses can often live to 40 or more. They just rarely do because of riding/work injuries and the fact that their digestion system is based on moving during or right after eating.

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#11

Phyllis, Southdown Sheep, Age 13

Phyllis, Southdown Sheep, Age 13

Isa Leshko Report

Alexandra Davis
Community Member
10 months ago

I've got two pet sheep, both in lamb, and I can't wait to have them live with us for years and years like a dog or a cat. One person was shocked when we said they were nearly 2 and asked how they were "so old?!" because he thought that sheep died at a year/ 18 months and were either lamb meat or mutton. He never thought that actually, they are only slaughtered that age and live an awful lot longer.

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#12

Bobby, White Domestic Duck, Age 11

Bobby, White Domestic Duck, Age 11

Isa Leshko Report

Luthor
Community Member
10 months ago

Her face! I love her.

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#13

Ash, Domestic White Turkey, Age 8

Ash, Domestic White Turkey, Age 8

Isa Leshko Report

Monika Georgieva
Community Member
10 months ago

He looks so sweet!

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#14

Teresa, Yorkshire Pig, Age 13

Teresa, Yorkshire Pig, Age 13

Isa Leshko Report

Luthor
Community Member
10 months ago

Cleverer than any dog... I love my dog... but weep for what these higher intelligent beings have to go through.

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#15

Marino, Bronze Turkey, Age 5

Marino, Bronze Turkey, Age 5

Isa Leshko Report

Luthor
Community Member
10 months ago

I've never quite understood the whole "We will give this ONE turkey clemency". Does that not indicate you know that it is bad?

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