Behind the lens: Who is Lessamontography?


Montaque’s self-portrait.

Tiffany Gaines, Special to The Record

What makes a good photograph? For some, it’s capturing the right subject. For others, it’s perfect lighting. For Jalessa Montaque, the perfect photograph captures everything she wants to say, but can’t put into words.

Montaque, 20, of Albany, NY is a media production major and photography minor. She became interested in photography her freshman year at SUNY Buffalo State when she received her first smartphone.

Her sophomore year, she decided to expand her hobby into a business, and Lessamontography was born. Now in her junior year, she has progressed even more, making a name for herself both on and off campus.

Calling herself the “free-spirited shutterbug,” Montaque does not limit her photography to one particular style. Instead, she takes a more candid approach, capturing her subjects in their most natural state. She finds inspiration from everything around her, including social media, fellow artists, and her friends.

Although she has yet to work on any individual projects, she has collaborated with a large number of people to help build a name and reputation for Lessamontography. She has worked with Black Fire Clothing, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, as well as Cantu Hair Products. She credits these collaborations for taking her out of her comfort zone and helping her develop her photography skills.

“All these experiences have helped me grow as a person and as a photographer. Everyone challenged me in a certain way. They put me in an uncomfortable position and I had to find my way out of that,” she said.

The most influential collaboration she has had has been with designer Toya Mendez. Mendez, a senior fashion merchandising major, is the designer and CEO of The Grunge Project.

The two first collaborated when Montaque filmed a short video showcasing Mendez’s collection, Born Rose. It was during this collaboration that Mendez and Montaque’s relationship really began to take shape.

“We had just done the Born Rose collection and her vibe and her energy and everything was just like, wow I can actually connect with this person on a visual level,” Mendez said.

“She put her passion into the work, and that’s how I started connecting with Jalessa.”

Although Montaque was not the only videographer to work on the project, the experience allowed her to get her feet wet in the world of video production. For Mendez’s next collection, Grené Wyntor, she decided to work solely with Montaque, and give her full creative control.

“She did an amazing job because it was something she did on her own,” Mendez said. “With my visuals, I gave her the concept and I told her exactly what I wanted.

“Just working side by side with Jalessa was great because she understands. I tell her one thing one time and she executes it. We have the same personality when it comes to visuals and art.”

Both Mendez and Montaque found Grené Wyntor to be their best collaboration so far.

“It was very stressful, but at the end of it all, I created something beautiful,” Montaque said.

The two have since developed not only a professional relationship, but also a friendship. They have both learned from one another and grown from the relationship they’ve forged. Moving forward, Montaque is now the head photographer and videographer for The Grunge Project, and the two are working on their next video project.

“If I could be a part of her becoming big, that would be great because with her, I’m getting big and with me, she’s getting huge. I guess working with her on a personal level is amazing because she’s my friend, and my sister,” Mendez said.

Montaque also credits the Buffalo State campus with bringing her in contact with other creative individuals who have influenced her and inspired her. These individuals have challenged her to show her work and put herself out there. This motivation has helped her grow, not only professionally, but as a person as well.

With all of this support, Montaque hopes to continue to expand Lessamontography. Post-graduation, she hopes to relocate to Brooklyn and eventually have her own studio. For now, she is continuously working on building up her business, her website,, and her experience.

“Building a brand is very intimidating. But with the right state of mind and motivation, and just believing in yourself every day, no matter any obstacle, things will start running smoothly, and it will get better,” Montaque said.

Running this brand and building an image has taught Montaque how to put herself out there and get people to see her work. This is something that isn’t necessarily taught in the classroom, but has been a vital teaching point in her recent experiences.

No matter what the future holds for Lessamontography, for Montaque, photography will always be an outlet for her to express herself and the way she sees the world. Her favorite part of what she does is the freedom she has to express everything she may be feeling but may not be able to articulate.

“I’m not the best writer and I’m not the best speaker, but with Lessamontography, I get to express myself in different ways,” Montaque said. “With videography I can express my style and my perspective of things.

“It’s just me, and how I feel things are supposed to look. It’s just free will.”


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