The Photography of Leah Oates and Max St-Jacques

This mother and son have more than most in common; Leah Oates and son Maximilien St-Jacques share a passion for photography.Oates’s grandfather was an amateur photographer who passed on his interest to her. When she began art school she was a painter and printmaker, but says she always referenced photography in both and eventually realized she was a photographer.


Manipulated photo of tree
Leah Oates, Transitory Space, Prospect Park # 5A, Brooklyn, NYC, Color Photography, 2020-2021.


She studied at Mass Art, Rhode Island School of Design and at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Oates also studied in Rome on a year abroad program at RISD and at Edinburgh College of Art on a Fulbright Fellowship.


Photo of desert caves in New Mexico
Max St-Jacques, New Mexico # 2, Color Photography, 2018- 2019.


Like his mother, St-Jacques was drawn to photography at a young age. “My mom and dad are both artists and I’ve been looking at art since I was in stroller,” he says. “My parents brought me to shows in New York and I absorbed all of this from age three onward. I had my first camera at ten and began taking photos. After studying chemistry in college, I decided to study photography. Since then and I’ve become passionate about this path.” Max studied photography at the School for Visual Arts in New York and will be studying photography in September in Toronto. A Canadian-American, St-Jacques spends half the year in Brooklyn and the other half in Toronto.


Manipulated photo of tree against blue sky with white clouds
Leah Oates, Transitory Space, Prospect Park # 20A, Brooklyn, NYC, Color Photography, 2020-2021.


“My husband, a video artist, and I took thousands of photos of Max from birth to age two and at certain age he requested that we ask him before taking an image of him. Max then claimed the camera for himself. I think he was becoming a photographer as he turned the camera on his parents and utilized the camera to explore the world around him. I have done portfolio reviews with Max as I have done with many artists, and made suggestions on which work I think is visually strong and worth focusing on.


Manipulated photo of trees and sky
Leah Oates, Transitory Space, Prospect Park #9, Brooklyn, NYC, Color Photography, 2020-2021.


“I’m drawn to nature, the landscape and to the changes in both,” says Oates. “I grew up in rural Maine from age twelve to eighteen, and it’s just got into my system. My grandmother was a biologist and environmentalist. I was very close to both she and my grandfather, and I think this also influenced me.”

Among the artists Oates admires and inspire her are Man Ray, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, David Hockney, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Edward Steichen, Helen Levitt, Diane Arbus, Sebastião Salgado, Robert Frank, Alfred Stieglitz and Lee Friedlander.


Photo of rocks of New Mexico
Max St-Jacques, New Mexico #13, Color Photography, 2022.


St-Jacques loves the work of Edward Burtynsky and Trevor Paglen. While his photography is different from his mother’s, he is also interested in nature and landscape. He uses a Canon digital camera.


Photo of red light of subway track, graffiteed wall
Max St. Jacques, NYC Underground #2, Color Photography, 2021.


“My work documents and captures daily moments that have varied colors and shapes in landscapes both urban and in nature. Landscape photography is about the interaction between humans and the environment as it changes and is shaped by people who affect the locations where they live,” he says.


Manipulated photo of tree
Leah Oates, Transitory Space, Prospect Park # 16, Brooklyn, NYC, Color Photography, 2020-2021.


Today Oates shoots with a Pentax k-1000 and 35 mm film camera that her father gave her in college. “I use multiple exposure and lenses. I then scan all my negatives and play with color, and composition similar to the painting or printmaking I did in the past,” she says. The results are a magical and mysterious blend of ex-ray precision and fleeting, natural beauty.


Photo of broom against a sawhorse in front of a graffiteed wall
Max St-Jacques, NYC Underground #4, Color Photography, 2021.


St.-Jacques, on the other hand, says “I photograph when I see something that interests me so keep me camera with me often in case. I use color and occasionally black and white with a tint. I’m mainly a color photographer as it’s more contemporary.”


Close up photo of ice crystal
Max St-Jacques, Ice & Salt #32, Color Photography, 2023.


Manipulated photo of trees
Leah Oates, Transitory Space, Prospect Park #57, Brooklyn, NYC, Color Photography, 2020-2021.


“I use color,” says Oates, “as I can have more latitude to visually play with it. Black and white is timeless, historic and monumental, which is very compelling, but I aim to communicate something of the moment, and color pulses with vitality and life which I love.”


Manipulated photo of view of trees looking up
Leah Oates, Transitory Space, Don Valley # 26, Toronto, Ontario, Color Photography, 2019-2020.


She explains that her ongoing series, The Transitory Space, deals with urban and natural locations that are transforming due to time, altered natural conditions and a continual human imprint. This series articulates fluctuation in the photographic image and captures movement through time and space.


Manipulated photo of trees
Leah Oates, Transitory Space, Prospect Park # 10, Brooklyn, NYC, Color Photography, 2020-2021.


“I make multiple exposures on specific frames in the camera which allows me to display a more complete correlation of experiences that a single exposure just misses,” she says. “Multiple exposures express the way we experience the world more accurately.” They also create movement while catching the moment.


Close up photo of crystals of ice and salt
Max St-Jacques, Ice & Salt #35, Color Photography, 2023.


Looking forward, St-Jacques anticipates his future study of photography and “refining his vision.”


Manipulated photo of trees
Leah Oates, Transitory Space, Prospect Park # 3, Brooklyn, NYC, Color Photography, 2020-2021.


Oates says her main goal “is just to make my work and to keep evolving as an artist. Art brings magic and meaning to my life. It’s like air, water and love.”

—By Elizabeth Meade Howard, Art Editor

Leah Oates

Leah Oates has had solo shows in New York at Susan Eley Fine Art, The Arsenal Gallery in Central Park, The Center for Book Arts, A4L Gallery, Henry Street Settlement, and A Taste of Art Gallery; and at Tomasulo Gallery in New Jersey; Real Art Ways in Connecticut; Sara Nightingale Gallery in Water Mill, Long Island; and the Sol Mednick Gallery at the Philadelphia University of the Arts. Oates has had solo shows nationally at Anchor Graphics, Artemisia Gallery, and Woman Made Gallery in Chicago and internationally at Galerie Joella in Turku, Finland.

Oates is from New England and currently lives in Toronto, Ontario Canada with her husband and cat. Oates founded Station Independent Projects Gallery in the Lower East Side in New York City, and hosted exhibits there from 2012-2017. She relaunched the gallery in Toronto in September 2023. To see more of her work, go to her site,

Max St-Jacques
Max St-Jacques, photographer, actor and model, has shown his photographs at Gallery 1313 in Toronto and the Praxis Gallery and Photo Art Center in Minneapolis, Minn. His work appeared in the spring issue of Zaum Magazine. He will be studying at the Ontario School of Art and Design in Toronto in September.

Follow us!
Share this post with your friends.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *