Mehoopany Township, Wyoming County -- It was an up-close photography shoot on Thursday for Isa Leshko. Of the nearly 200 animals at Indraloka Animal Sanctuary, the New Jersey born photographer focused on aging animals. "I think of them as intimate portraits." Her goal was to capture animals living out their final days. "To be able to spend time with a geriatric chicken or a geriatric pig is just a really moving experience for me."
Whether it's a pig that's lived well past its prime or some other aging creature, she wanted to photograph the animals in their element. That may mean spending considerable time around the animals as she points her camera in their direction. "It's important to me that I'm photographing them in a natural way, not them reacting to me."
Ms. Leshko has compiled other black and white photographs in her travels that are part of an ongoing five year project entitled "Elderly Animals". The photos often depict the struggles that the animals endured in their lives as reflected in their faces and bodies. "It's important for me to show them in a beautiful, dignified way," she said. "There is a sense that all life is sacred and that's something I do believe in."
The animals aren't the only thing that's old that's part of this project. Ms. Leshko uses a film camera that's no longer made. But she says she chooses it because it helps give her just the perfect picture. Ms. Leshko says using a film camera instead of digital makes for a more deliberate photo shoot. "The fact that I need to take a break after 12 frames and reload and step back and really observe what's going on I think it really helps with my process."
The staff at Indraloka Animal Sanctuary is pleased that Ms. Leshko put her focus on their haven for animals. "Photos and film are vital to the growth of the sanctuary. People want to see the animals obviously and her work take it to another level," said Indraloka Animal Sanctuary Creative Director Johnny Braz. Ms. Leshko plans to include the photos she took this week as part of a future book. In the meantime, her photographs will be included in an upcoming fundraiser for Indraloka Animal Sanctuary. It's happening on Friday, August 1st from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Bar Hill, 1431 Ash Street in Scranton. You can learn more about Ms. Leshko's latest project by logging onto elderlyanimals.com.