Elderly Animals Artist Statement
For the last several years, I have been visiting farm sanctuaries across the country to create intimate portraits of animals at the end stage of their lives. It is rare for farm animals to reach old age because they typically experience brutality and death early in their lives. By depicting the beauty and dignity of these creatures in their later years, my images show farm animals in a very different manner from how people usually envision them.
In order to achieve a sense of intimacy in these portraits, I spend several hours with the animals I photograph and I visit them multiple times whenever possible. Before taking any pictures, I frequently lie on the ground next to the animal for an hour or so in order to help the creature acclimate to my presence. I strive to depict the unique personality of each animal I photograph in order to illustrate that farm animals are emotional sentient beings.
For this series I have also photographed companion animals. I juxtapose these images with my farm animal portraits in order to encourage viewers to see the similarities among these animals.
I began this series shortly after caring for my mom who had Alzheimer’s disease. The experience had a profound effect on me and forced me to confront my own mortality. I am terrified of growing old and developing dementia. I started photographing geriatric animals in order to take an unflinching look at aging. After visiting a few farm sanctuaries though, this project became more than a therapeutic exercise for me. It became increasingly important that I use this work to advocate on behalf of farm animals.
A particularly difficult aspect of this project is that the animals I photograph usually die within weeks to months after I meet them. Grief inspired this project and it has also become an inherent byproduct of making this work.
Elderly Animals will be published by the University of Chicago Press in the Spring of 2018.
Download this Artist Statement.
Elderly Animals Film
The following short film was created by Walley Films about Isa’s Elderly Animals project. Filming was done in San Antonio, Texas and in Kendalia, Texas in May 2011. Warm thanks goes to Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation for letting Isa and the Walleys film at their sanctuary.