A play of light and shadow in Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Text: Rachel Genevieve Chia
Since arriving in Vietnam over a decade ago, Justin Mott has established himself as a photographer in Southeast Asia. He has been published in the New York Times, BBC, TIME, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and The Guardian. Mott also hosts the History channel’s photography series Photo Face-Off. Mott was a judge for the Canon PhotoMarathon in 2017, where he judged almost 4,000 entries across Singapore to crown winners in 3 different categories.
This Q&A was kindly supported by Canon PhotoMarathon.
Q: What inspires, influences and interests you? What do you try to communicate with your photographs, and how is that achieved?
JM: I’m pushed by my peers and I strive to improve my work through personal projects. Personal projects allow me time to try new techniques with my shooting and storytelling style. I shoot editorial, commercial, and wedding work so it really depends on the shoot. In all that I shoot I want to tell compelling stories with believable images and I do that by using mostly natural light and being patient for natural moments.
Q: How do you get photos to look the way you want? How do you educate yourself to take better pictures? What motivates you to continue taking pictures?
JM: Photographers love to tell you it’s all about talent but I feel photography is like any other craft, it’s all about hard work and perseverance. I get better by never being complacent with my work.
Q: Locations and weather seem to be a crucial aspect to a successful picture. How do you handle these unpredictable factors?
JM: I shoot a lot of luxury resorts and everything depends on beautiful sunshine. I overshoot on sunny days and try to stay ahead of schedule so if we do have a bad weather day I’m covered. If we have two bad weather days, I’m in trouble.
Q: What makes a good picture stand out from an average one? What did you look out for from submissions to the Canon PhotoMarathon (CPM)?
JM: I’ve judged tens of thousands of images for CPM and other competitions and I look for something unique and fresh. I’m so tired of people submitting another version of someone else’s winning or famous image. Your first few ideas or concepts when the theme is announced is probably the same idea the rest of the participants have so spend more time thinking. Strive to be different, push yourself and even if you don’t win at least you were unique.
Q: How do photography events like Canon PhotoMarathon elevate the caliber of photography enthusiasts in Singapore? Do you have any comments on the photography scene here?
JM: First off, it’s rare these days for photographers to meet in person, everyone is just consumed with their social media pages and sharing ideas and images online. There is something special about sharing images in person, talking through ideas in person, and sharing our universal love for photography in person. CPM brings together a wonderful community of photography enthusiasts and it’s quite special. CPM Singapore is like the all-star game for photo marathons in the region. The prizes are plentiful and they put on a great show so that attract the best competitors in the entire region.
Check out the Canon PhotoMarathon 2016 winners at: http://www.canon.com.sg/photomarathon/gallery