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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 Leshko set out to capture glimpses of animals at a time when they rarely attract much admiration or media attention—in their twilight years. The photographs…are intimate and at times gripping.

 
Her luminous photographs are a moving expression of empathy, but also a celebration of life.

 
Leshko’s photographs are extremely powerful, at once heartbreaking and still full of life, eliciting our most human responses to old age and suffering in our furry friends.

 
In her rich black and white tones, Leshko realizes the potential of her camera to make permanent her elderly bestial subjects, and in the process of remembering each creature, the viewer is forced to recognize his or her eventual death.

 
These photographs haunt me; I cannot get them out of my mind. As I look at them I feel a deep sadness when I recognize there is a good chance the animals photographed for this series are no longer alive. And yet, at the same time, I experience a sense of peace knowing that these animals were cared for and loved in their sanctuary environments. Leshko used her camera to make sure that these animals would not be forgotten – that we recognize them as individuals who had thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Like us, these animals sought out comfort and peace in their final days....

Leshko’s Elderly Animals project presents viewers with the opportunity to think differently about the animals they share the planet with. These photographs demonstrate that there is little difference between species when it comes to issues of aging and mortality.

 
The resulting images—sharp, unwavering, yet soft—respect the animals.

 
Isa Leshko has put a spin on the animal photos we’re all accustomed to seeing on the Internet. No cute and fluffy pups here, and definitely no cute-as-a-button kitties.