“To take pictures of people is to invade them.” These are the words of Susan Sontag. It means taking pictures equals invading the subjects being photographed by “seeing what they cannot see and having a knowledge of themselves that they will never have.” This is not to say that all photography is the same, but rather to point out the unethical nature of capturing a subject as if hunting.

American photographer Isa Leshko noted what Sontag said about the unethical nature of photography. In the West, hunters have enjoyed photographing their catch since the late 19th century, and the present day is no exception. When Donald Trump was a presidential candidate in 2016, photos of his sons next to leopards, crocodiles, and bison they hunted in Zimbabwe were released. They even took pictures with the severed elephant’s tail. They were too sadistic to take pictures of themselves holding dead animals and laughing as if shooting them for fun wasn’t enough. It was like killing the target with a gun, taking a picture, and killing it again. In English, ‘to shoot’ and ‘to take a picture’ use the same word shoot.

Leshko draws attention to the creepiness that comes with shooting when it means the act of taking a picture. She used to describe taking pictures as a shoot before capturing animals growing old. It was because I was not conscious of the violence contained therein. But later, as she took pictures of aged animals abandoned, abused, and neglected by humans, she realized how cruel, violent, and anthropocentric it was to “shoot” photos. Then she stopped using the word to shoot her picture. Of course, that won’t change the world around her. People will still use the word shoot as if shooting a gun while taking a picture. Still, the important thing is that she wanted to express her compassion for vulnerable lives at the mercy of human violence. While her photographs that carefully captured the last minutes of animals or “the other among others” described by Jacques Derrida are moving, her refusal to offend animals even with words in a nonchalant manner is more touching.

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Browse all of Isa Leshko’s work at CLAMP.