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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.”


"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."


"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?"


"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."


“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.”


“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.”

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.