Portfolio Feature in Photograph & Other Recent Press

Allowed to Grow Old is featured in the September/October issue of Photograph. The magazine’s editor Jean Dykstra writes: “Leshko’s portraits bring to mind Peter Hujar’s photographs of animals, which similarly captured the particularity of a dog or horse (or goose or goat), a sense of that creature’s individual consciousness. Leshko’s photographs, too, are rich in respect and empathy while avoiding sentimentality….Whatever viewers’ thoughts on animal rights, her pictures give us pause to consider why some are cherished pets and others are disposable.”

Isa and her work were featured in a fantastic profile piece by Brigit Katz for Tenderly. Here is one of her favorite passages from the article:

“[Isa] relates what she initially describes as a “cheesy” anecdote, though she subsequently corrects herself: “It’s funny for a vegan to say cheesy. This is going to really sound Daiya-ish.” Allowed to Grow Old was printed in Altona, a Canadian town not far from Winnipeg. For an intense few days, Leshko was constantly on hand at the press to inspect each page. “It could have been sleep deprivation,” she says, “but I did have this mental picture of all the animals in the project behind me as I was looking at the pages in the book.”

“So,” she adds, “they’re still with me.”

Isa was also recently interviewed by Anna Mackiewicz for We Animals Media. Here is an excerpt from their discussion:

How do you think the way we understand animals is changing? 

Our understanding of animals is definitely improving, especially among scientists. From the early twentieth century through to the 1990s, animal behaviorists rejected the idea that animals were capable of thought or emotion. They posited that all animal behavior was the result of hard-wired reflexes or learned associations between positive or negative stimuli. Over the last three decades, this theory has been challenged by research in the fields of evolutionary biology, cognitive ethology, zoology, and neuroscience. Although some behaviorists still resist attributing “human-like” mental processes to nonhuman animals, the prevailing scientific view is that all vertebrates and many invertebrates (e.g., cephalopods such as squids and octopuses) are sentient beings that have emotions and cognitive capabilities we are just beginning to grasp. 

That said, we are living in an era in which empathy is in increasingly short supply as xenophobia and nationalism continues to spread throughout Europe and America. Across the world political policies are increasingly designed to maximize cruelty toward minority populations, especially immigrants.

This same callousness is also directed toward non-human animals. It’s true that in recent years there have been some legislative victories for non-human animals in America, such as the successful Yes on 12 campaign in California, which has increased protections for farmed animals from extreme confinement. But there have been many devastating developments, especially regarding the weakening of protections for wildlife and recent evidence that the USDA is failing to report violations of animal welfare laws at puppy mills, research labs and zoos. Also troubling, the Trump administration has proposed a new rule that will cut the number of federal inspectors at pig slaughterhouses by 40 per cent and instead shift oversight to plant employees. Under the new rule there also will be no limit on slaughter-line speeds. This is absolutely gut-wrenching. 

Would it be correct to say that you see animal rights as deeply connected to broader rights issues, and the current political environment?

I’ve spent the last several months thinking about the connections between speciesism, racism and sexism in light of what has been unfolding in America. President Trump has called his political enemies “dogs” on several occasions and routinely uses dehumanizing language to refer to undocumented immigrants and refugees. He has gone as far as referring to immigration as an “infestation”. There is even an article on the White House web site describing members of the MS-13 gang as “violent animals.” This likening of humans to animals both dehumanizes people, and reinforces the idea that animals are inferior to humans. History has shown us that governments apply dehumanizing language towards a minority as a precursor to committing atrocities against them.

I have yet to address what has been happening in America through my art. But I have little doubt that my anger and fear over the last several years will find its way into my artwork.

Isa Leshko
Reviews & Other Press

Here are the highlights of recent reviews and other press for Allowed to Grow Old from the last month.

"A poignant creation. . . . one of the things that is so remarkable about the portraits – you can see each animal's personality; their singularity and distinction. Each is a beautiful, living individual, not some abstract "thing" produced en masse at a factory for the purpose of fueling humans....Allowed to Grow Old opens a window into possibilities that most of don't think to imagine: What would that cheap, supermarket chicken have become if given the chance?"

"For each picture, Leshko approaches her subjects with the same dignity that she would a human being, taking the time to get to understand each of the animal's mannerisms and unique personalities. Since most of these rescues come from places of extreme cruelty such as slaughterhouses and factory farms, Leshko's special care and patience is crucial to building trust between animal and artist."

"That’s what makes the photos so special — and so arresting. When seeing a 33-year-old horse or a 28-year-old goose depicted in a dignified yet unflinching way, it’s difficult not to dwell on the inevitabilities humans and animals share. And, regardless of where a person falls on the meat-eating vs. vegetarian spectrum, it’s also hard to avoid thinking about an animal’s ability to experience pain and fear, as well as pleasure and contentment."

“Allowed to Grow Old is an acknowledgment of the failings of the human race–grave injustices perpetrated against unseen and unheard animals. It’s also a tribute to the power of forgiveness and the possibility of redemption.”

additional press links

Isa Leshko
Recent Podcast Interviews

Isa has appeared on a flurry of podcasts recently to discuss the release of Allowed to Grow Old. Below is a sampling of recent interviews; click on the logo to visit each podcast site.

Isa Leshko
Isa Leshko Appearance on The Sunday Edition

Isa was recently interviewed by Michael Enright for his popular show, The Sunday Edition.

June 14th Update: Michael Enright interviewed ethologist Marc Bekoff for The Sunday Edition to explore the complex inner lives of non-human animals. At the 20-minute mark of their discussion, Michael and Marc discuss my work in the context of whether animals can experience dignity.

Click on image to be taken to the web page with the interview.

Click on image to be taken to the web page with the interview.

Isa Leshko
Allowed to Grow Old Featured In The Observer

Last month, Allowed to Grow Old received an early review by Richard Benson in the Observer that ran over 4 pages in the print edition and was featured on the Guardian web site. For at least a week it was in the top 10 most popular stories in the Art and Design section of the Guardian web site.

From the review:

This is partly the story of a woman who starts out not knowing how to open and close a farm gate, and ends up learning how to put animals at ease so she can photograph them in close-up (approach them at eye level; lie in the hay with them for as long as it takes; don’t take your bag into the pen, because they’ll eat it).

It’s also about characters like friendly Melvin the Angora goat, and Babs the impossibly stoic, shaggy donkey, who are described in the text with an empathy at times reminiscent of Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk.

Making the text personal makes the book feel warm and open rather than preachy, which seems the right way to go if you really want to “start a conversation”, as Leshko does."

Isa LeshkoPress
Isa Leshko Represented By ClampArt

I am thrilled to share the news that my work is now represented by ClampArt.

Prints from my Allowed to Grow Old series will be exhibited at the ClampArt booth (#313) at The Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD) art fair in New York City from April 4 - 7, 2019. ClampArt will also host a book launch event for Allowed to Grow Old at the AIPAD fair on April 4, 2019 from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. I will be in attendance to sign copies of the book that will be sold by the gallery. 

In addition, ClampArt will mount my first solo exhibition in NYC from October 3 - November 16, 2019.

I hope to see you at AIPAD and/or at the opening for my exhibition on October 3rd!