The Photographer With A Creepy Oedipus Complex

“The sexual wishes in regard to the mother become more intense and the father is perceived as an obstacle to them; this gives rise to the Oedipus complex.” —Sigmund Freud, The Ego and the Id

In A Nutshell

Leigh Ledare is a photographer from Seattle whose works have been featured in a series of art galleries across the world. But unlike his contemporaries, the 37-year-old doesn’t capture portraits or landscapes. Instead, his snapshots are the result of a strange obsession: his nude mother, and her love life.

The Whole Bushel

Visitors to one of Leigh Ledare’s photography exhibits might be shocked to learn that the photos of the nude woman on display are of his mother—and rightfully so. One of them showcases the red-headed woman sprawled naked on a bed; another has her in the heat of passion with a former lover; a third depicts her wearing a princess crown, frozen in another act of love. These, and many others, were all taken by Ledare, as he sat in on the privacy of his mother’s love life, twisting a lens, and pressing the shutter button. She not only approved of his art, but also encouraged it.

In a recent interview, Ledare recalled how it began in his youth, saying, “I arrived home not having seen her for a year and a half. She knew I was coming and opened the door naked.” He took the exhibition to be his mother’s “way of announcing to me what she was up to, at this period in her life—almost as though to say, ‘Take it or leave it.’ I had a camera and began making photos of her then. She was the catalyst.”

Thus began what he describes as an eight-year “project,” during which he developed a very “open and intimate” relationship with his mother. The result was Pretend You’re Actually Alive, a 244-page book, featuring the taboo photographs along with special commentary. In an accompanying reminiscence from the seventh grade, he writes: “The mound of red hair at her crotch is starting to dry and get fluffy.”

Critics and art commentators, jumping at the chance to review his work, helped propel him to an “acclaimed” status, with one suggesting that “The result is unsettling, as gripping as it is disconcerting. And there is little else like them in the history of photography.” Others see it as the manifestation of an Oedipus complex, a psychoanalytical theory pointing to a child’s desire to “sexually possess the parent of the opposite sex.”

But Ledare is full of adorning, purple prose when it comes to describing his work:

“This relationship is unstable in the sense that it attempts not to essentialize [sic] my mother but record her self-representations as responses to economic, social and intimate needs. There is certainly an ambivalence that lies at the core of the work, and perhaps this is disturbing, but I also think it’s an accurate reflection of life and relationships.”

Show Me The Proof

Mousse Magazine: “Leigh Ledare, et al.” (photos of Ledare’s art—NSFW)
Destricted Revue: Interview with Leigh Ledare (photos of Ledare’s art—NSFW)

  • puffmamatre

    If you know whats good for you dont google the images like i did……

    • Check

      Too late, but I’m not bothered, lol!

    • Draz J Ekiel

      The ones I saw weren’t bad..they were artistly done, not extreme, or pron like..

  • Lisa 39

    Eww, they’re both freaky, eww.

    • Check


  • Check

    I see nothing wrong here with his work. His mother is supporting his art and, in fact, it seems to make his relationship with her all the better. More power to them both.

    • Matty Combs

      So what are ‘you’ getting mom this Mother’s Day, hmmm…?

  • UN

    I wonder what father thinks of all this!!

  • Chris

    I dunno, I saw the some pics… It’s like their just trying to justifying their behavior (Mother and son) for their needs by shooting pictures. Let’s not dress it up it for art, but for a sick excuse.

  • cielodrive

    A sicko hipster is the worst kind of hipster.

    • g.g.palin

      Christ, that made me laugh.

  • Natasha


  • Hillyard

    OK I made it through all the lists on LV, including the (excellent) Morris list on urban legends without being creeped out. This is the straw that made my camel say F**k it! I did google some of the pics, and if I didn’t know that her son too them I would think that they were erotic (not pornographic) pics of a reasonably good looking older lady. But I do know, and that just creeps me out. Really, your mom? Takes all kinds to make a world.

    • Lisa 39

      And again, you’re a very brave man, i couldn’t even look at the pics, i’m very grossed out by this.

      • g.g.palin

        It is a bit odd but, it’s not as if he’s penatrating her with his lens. Who knows maybe he has some grand idea or some metaphysical connection that we’re all missing. Or perhaps he just loves seeing mom naked. I can’t just write it off as filth just yet.

        • Lisa 39

          I just keep thinking of joe dirt and the blond from the carnival “i’m your sister, i’m your sister”, ugh, you can hold onto hope that its not filth but i’m already convinced it is :p

  • Caleb Meade


    • Andy West

      It’s pronounced ‘photo’, silent ‘p’.

      • lbatfish


        • Andy West


        • Andy West

          No excuses for that one. If it ever happens again I’ll rue the day.I just appreciate the fact you took me to one side to tell me.

          • lbatfish

            Well . . . a comment in a days-old KN article is ALMOST “to one side”, isn’t it? 🙂

            Which is actually a very timely point (especially now that this article is almost a week old): Unfortunately, Disqus doesn’t offer a means of communication between two commenters except in the comments themselves (or at least I don’t know of a way, and neither has anybody else that I’ve asked). So when I want to establish more direct contact with somebody, I go to an old list or article and offer the other party my “spammail” address (which I use whenever I need to post my email in a public forum, because there’s so much spam hitting it already that if my addy gets harvested by a bot, well, some additional spam won’t really matter anyway). When I get a reply to that address, I reply back to the other person from my “real” addy. If you’d be interested in doing this, it’s:

            Or if you do Skype, the process is much easier — just call me at (Surprise, surprise!): lbatfish

            I’ll leave this up here for a few days, so I hope you’re interested and that I’ll be hearing from you.

            Yr. Humble Servant,

            Leo X. Batfish, Esq.

  • Marozia

    Oh…so it’s not Terry Richardson!!

  • Exiled Phoenix

    Truly odd… Freud would have problems untangling their relationship.

  • Biancoceleste

    Hell nope