JUST RELEASED: ALLOWED TO GROW OLD
Isa’s first book, Allowed to Grow Old has just been released by University of Chicago Press. The book features her portraits of elderly rescued farm animals and includes essays by NY Times bestselling author Sy Montgomery, Farm Sanctuary co-founder Gene Baur, and curator Anne Wilkes Tucker. Learn more about the project & view sample images from the book.
“Empathy. Humans have the greatest capacity for it. And we have the greatest need for much, much more of it. In this soulful, deeply conveyed book, extraordinary photos team with eloquent words to show us the wisdom path to becoming more human by becoming more humane.”
—Carl Safina, author of Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“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.”
"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."
“In this unexpected encounter with aging animals, Isa Leshko enables us to see what she sees: the beauty and dignity of those allowed to live into old age. There is something new in these gorgeous portraits of the old.”
—Carol Adams, author of Sexual Politics of Meat
“Allowed to Grow Old is a priceless and heartfelt tribute in stunning images and moving words to elderly farmed animals — senior citizens — who had previously lived horrific lives. This beautiful book clearly reveals the individuality of each animal photographed, and shows that farmed animals are no different from the companion animals with whom we share our homes and our hearts. They all are sentient beings with unique characters and personalities, who simply want to live out their lives with lots of love and in peace and safety. As an ethologist who has studied the emotional lives of a wide variety of animals, I could easily feel what each individual was feeling when they were photographed, and could well imagine the lives they have led. I hope this book enjoys a global audience. No matter what language readers speak, these images transcend different cultures and belief systems. They are that compelling.”
— Marc Bekoff, author of The Emotional Lives of Animals
“It is a pleasure to see these elderly cousins of ours, rheumy-eyed, bewhiskered, unsteady on their feet, enjoying their twilight years in peace, security, and dignity.”
—J.M. Coetzee, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature & Booker Prize
“There is great poise and dignity in the animals Isa Leshko captures with her lens: their characters shine brightly despite their often devastating histories. She looks at them, and her gaze reveals them as individuals. One hopes our society looks, too, and does better for them all. What Leshko gives us with these photographs is a reminder of the very real fates of these and all farm animals. I would love to know every one of them.”
—Alexandra Horowitz, author of Inside of a Dog
“Beautiful art and powerful animal advocacy–Isa Leshko’s portraits of elderly farmed animals are both. Abe the goat (age 21) I gaze at just because he’s so handsome; the images of Pearl (age 7), Violet (age 12), and Stella (age 18) affirm for me why I don’t eat turkeys, pigs, or cows.Isa’s words are compelling too: in describing her patient methods of honoring each animal’s comfort level with being photographed at his or her sanctuary home, it becomes clear why these images so touch our hearts. This volume is a perfect choice for animal lovers.”
— Barbara J. King, author of Personalities on the Plate
“Rarely do we see elderly farm animals. Pigs, cows, horses and chickens are usually killed before they have a chance to experience a full life–which means they die young. Isa Leshko’s images speak volumes: these are sentient beings. Yes, the animals are old, but also wise in years, and still living their lives, under the care of people who have their welfare at heart and want them to live as long as they can without pain. Here is a book animal lovers will want to savor and embrace–as it reminds us to hold close our own aging animals.”
—Virginia Morell, author of Animal Wise: How We Know Animals Think and Feel
“In Allowed to Grow Old, Leshko’s remarkable, unsentimental photos of older chickens, turkeys, pigs, cows and other animals achieve something that I have not seen before in photos of domesticated animals. We get to know them, not as things to eat or produce milk or eggs for us, but as individuals with personalities and lives of their own to lead.”
—Peter Singer, philosopher & author of Animal Liberation
“Very few books can make you laugh, cry, smile, and ponder the universe all at once. This rare, beautiful, and thoughtful volume of photographs and essays does exactly all that. Please read it, please think about its message, and, if you can, please act on it!”
—Gene Stone, co-author of Living the Farm Sanctuary Life and author of The Awareness
“Because of the betrayals they endured at our hands over long lifetimes, the eyes of Isa Leshko’s subjects radiate deep sadness and reproach, but also a touching dignity and lack of bitterness and fear. I found myself stroking their fur and feathers on the pages to comfort them or perhaps to ask their forgiveness. Hers is an unforgettable book.”
—Steven Wise, Founder & President of Nonhuman Rights Project