It started as a form of therapy for photographer Isa Leshko, a way of dealing with her mother’s Alzheimer’s and her own fear of mortality. However, her project photographing elderly animals has gone beyond just herself. Through it she captures the essence of life in each animal — the strengths and defeats, the happiness and sadness.

As Leshko explains in the video below, it all began a year or so after taking care of her parents. While visiting a relative’s farm, she noticed a very old horse and fell in love with him, and eventually took his photo. From here, her passion began to snowball and she started taking photos of elderly pets with a special emphasis on elderly farm animals.

In the artist statement on her site, Leshko explains that many of her subjects are actually animals who have been rescued from factory farms. Many of them have been genetically modified to age quicker to make it to slaughter faster. Therefore, they reach an elderly stage at a much earlier age than heirloom varieties.

Besides using photography as a form of her own therapy, she also wants her work to have an impact on viewers.

As she states on her website, “I … want my images to inspire greater empathy toward animals, particularly farm animals. It is very rare for a farm animal to actually live its full natural lifespan given that most of these animals experience brutality and death early in their lives. By depicting the beauty and dignity of these creatures in their later years, I want to encourage people to question and challenge the way farm animals are currently treated.”

When you see these photos, you get a sense of sadness but also an incredible sense of respect as many of the animals in her portraits have been able to live long lives despite some painful and unhappy experiences. However, take a moment to think about how many elderly farm animals you actually see or have seen. It’s probably not many and what does that say about how we treat these animals?

Isa Leshko is still traveling to create new images for this project, and so we will surely see more of her amazing photos in the future. In the mean time, we’ll leave you with her project video below and this question: don’t we all — both human and non-human alike — deserve to the chance to reach a ripe old age in peace?