Elderly Animals is the moving project by Philadelphia-based photographer Isa Leshko in which she travels to sanctuaries across the country to photograph animals who are elderly or in the last stage of their life. Leshko began the project after spending a year in New Jersey caring for her mother who has Alzheimer’s disease. The portraits explore aging and mortality, and in many ways are self-portraits—a way for Leshko to confront her own fear of getting older and of the dementia that runs in her family.
Leshko spends hours with the animals and will often visit them many different 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,” she says. This intimacy makes for incredibly poignant photographs—eloquent in their emotion, respectful in their dignity, and commemorating in their beauty.