Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Photographer Isa Leshko on Elderly Animals

In all the dross one can encounter online, there are occasionally nuggets of inspiration that remain with me for weeks after I first see or read them. This gallery of photos of elderly animals taken by Isa Leshko is one such place of soul-formation for me, as is the Vimeo video at the head of the posting. Leshko began taking photos of animals at the end of their life journeys as she dealt with her mother's diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease.

As I watch the video and look at the photos, I think of this astute observation by Jeffrey Moussaieff Mason and Susan McCarthy in their book When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals (NY: Delta, 1995):

Humans often behave as if something like us were more worthy of respect than something not like us. Racism can partly be described, if not explained, in this way. Men treat other men better than they treat women, based in part on their view that women are not like them. Many of these so-called differences are disguises for whatever a dominant power can impose. 
The basic idea seems to be that if something does not feel pain in the way a human being feels pain, it is permissible to hurt it (p. 226).

And I think of Mary Oliver's statement in Blue Pastures (San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1995)--"I believe everything has a soul (p. 63)"--as well as of her declaration in her poem "Some Questions You Might Ask,"

The face of the moose is as sad
as the face of Jesus. 

When I look at Leshko's powerful photographs, it seems to me that the hegemonic claim of human beings to possess soul in some unique way, while the rest of the animal kingdom is soulless, is utter nonsense.

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