The incredibly talented Isa Leshko joins the podcast this week for an inside look into her one-of-a-kind photography book, Allowed to Grow Old: Portraits of Elderly Rescued Farm Animals. Isa’s black-and-white portraits of aging animals, members of species whose other members, numbering in the billions, are typically killed in their infancy, would make anyone think twice about what, or who, is on their plate. The vegan photographer shares how the project came to be, and how it helped her process grief and examine her fear of aging. Isa also talks about the ethics of photographing animals and how she learned, largely from the animals themselves, how best to approach the images as portraits. Her insights into why photography has become a critical part of advocacy help inform why her photos evoke such strong emotion and spark critical thinking.
Isa is an artist and writer whose work examines animal rights, aging, and mortality. Her images are published in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, Harper’s Magazine, and The New York Times. In May 2019, the University of Chicago Press published her first monograph, Allowed to Grow Old: Portraits of Elderly Rescued Farm Animals, including essays by activist Gene Baur, bestselling author Sy Montgomery, and curator Anne Wilkes Tucker. Isa has received fellowships from the Bogliasco Foundation, the Culture & Animals Foundation, the Houston Center for Photography, the Millay Colony for the Arts, and the Silver Eye Center for Photography.
“Aging can be a luxury and is a luxury — these animals are survivors, and I did want to celebrate that.”
– Isa Leshko
- How Isa resisted treating the animals as proxies for her own concerns, and why it seemed exploitative for her to treat animals as metaphors or teaching tools for humans
- Why it is equally thought-provoking to approach advocacy with photos that appeal to the heart as it is to take photos that horrify the viewer
- The media’s reaction to Isa’s work and the recognition of the ageism that also exists in how we perceive animals
- The challenge for animal advocates in going beyond preaching to the choir
- Isa’s process of taking the photographs in her book and how she spent time getting to know the animals
- The ethics of photographing animals and the importance of respecting who they are as individuals
- Isa’s further plans to continue working with animals
Connect with Isa Leshko:
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This episode is brought to you in part through the generosity of A Well-Fed World. A Well-Fed World provides the means for change by empowering individuals, social justice organizations, and political decision makers to embrace the benefits of plant-based foods and farming. Learn more at awfw.org.
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Don’t forget to tune into Our Hen House’s other two podcasts: The Teaching Jasmin How to Cook Vegan Podcast, and The Animal Law Podcast.
The Our Hen House theme song is written and performed by Michael Harren.