Elderly Animals Artist Statement
I am traveling to sanctuaries across the country to photograph geriatric animals. I began this series shortly after I had spent a year caring for my mom who had Alzheimer’s disease. The experience had a profound impact on me and forced me to confront my own mortality.
I am creating these photographs in order to take an unflinching look at aging. Both my maternal grandmother and my mom died from complications relating to dementia. I am scared of developing Alzheimer’s disease and I get nervous whenever I lose my keys or forget a person’s name. These images reflect my fears and hopes about what I will be like when I am old.
I also want my images to inspire greater empathy toward animals, particularly farm animals. Many of the animals in this project were reared on factory farms before they were rescued. It is very 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, I want to show farm animals in a different light. I deliberately juxtapose portraits of working animals with portraits of companion animals in order to encourage people to question why they might view these animals differently from dogs and cats.
In order to achieve a sense of intimacy in these images, I spend several hours with each animal I photograph. Depending on the animal, I may spend an hour or so simply lying on the ground next to the creature before I take a single image. This approach helps the animal acclimate to my presence and it allows me to observe the animal without being focused on picture taking. Because I think of these images as portraits, I shoot them at the animal’s eye level. I want viewers to relate to the animals in my images as peers.
A particularly difficult aspect of this project is that the animals I bond with and 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.
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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.