JUSTIN MOTT

A LOVE LETTER TO VIETNAM

Balancing a professional photography career and one’s own business leaves very little room for experimentation. When deadlines and clients need your attention, it’s easy to lose sight of the creativity and curiosity that inspired you to pick up a camera in the first place.

Img

Vietnam-based photographer Justin Mott attributes much of his professional success to the momentum he builds from his personal projects. The first one that propelled Justin in the direction he’s travelled in for the past decade was a photojournalism study covering victims suffering from the devastating effects of Agent Orange. Through a Vietnamese friend, Justin gained access to an orphanage that cares for children who suffer from a broad range of toxic chemical-related illnesses, including everything from organ diseases, to physical abnormalities and severe mental impairments.

Inspired by the work of Welsh Photographer Philip Jones Griffiths and moved by the plight of the young children he encountered, Justin used his photography to learn more about their experiences and shine a light on their lives. The images that Justin captured led to several accolades, including recognition from the Marty Forscher Award for humanitarian photography and acceptance into the prestigious Eddie Adams Workshop. That personal project turned out to be the springboard that effectively propelled Justin from a skilled amateur to a professional photographer.

Building on those early successes, Justin established himself in Vietnam and set up his own commercial photography and video production business within destination wedding photography. He is also one of the host judges on the History Channel’s Photo Face-Off in Asia, which he’s been appearing on for four years now. Of course, every photographer is going to experience a unique journey and transition when turning professional, but the point is, Justin found that taking a risk and pursuing a project for himself was the catalyst for his career.

Img

Now, between his commercial, TV work and wedding shoots, Justin is also dedicating some of his time to his “As Above, So Below” project, an ongoing love letter to Vietnam. But having lived away from his home country for over ten years, the American photographer has decided to begin another personal project – exploring the landscape and characters of Block Island, where he and his father grew up.

Speaking about his decision to look backwards for his next step, Justin said, “At the beginning of your career, you’re trying to decide what’s going to bring in work, what’s going to get you paid. I’m 40 this year, so at this stage, I’m trying to look at what I can gain personally. The story of Block Island is about my history."

“I don’t just want to be known for my commercial work. I’m thinking about legacy now; I want to be known for a project or projects that are truly me.”

Astonishingly, Justin has never worked in the United States; with this upcoming project, he plans to test himself, working in locations and environments he hasn’t taken professional pictures in before. He plans to explore the open spaces and quiet heroes of the small community in his father’s hometown.

Keep up with his current projects and work by following him on Instagram at @askmott.

More Hasselblad stories

All stories
Donald Michael Chambers | 60 Minutes of Silence

Donald Michael Chambers

60 Minutes of Silence

No talking. No phones. No distractions. For 60 minutes, Donald Michael Chambers sat with each of his 30 subjects in complete silence. Once the hour began, Donald gave no direction and simply decided when to click the shutter button.

Gavin Goodman | Pleating Paper into Sculptural Headwear

Gavin Goodman

Pleating Paper into Sculptural Headwear

South African photographer Gavin Goodman had a vision to create a series influenced by traditional African headwear done with a modern and simplistic touch. Commissioning a local origami artist as a unique way to bring this vision to life, they transformed delicate paper into beautiful African-inspired sculptural objects. 

 Tomás Karmelo Amaya | Native Love Stories

Tomás Karmelo Amaya

Native Love Stories

Born for the A:shiwi, Rarámuri, and Yoeme tribes, creative Tomás Karmelo Amaya’s ongoing series Native Love Stories illustrates the abundance of Indigenous circles, including love, service to others, community strength, and the ability to thrive.

 Luka Trajkovic | Cinematic Scenes in Serbia

LUKA TRAJKOVIC

CINEMATIC SCENES IN SERBIA

Inspired by the greatest film directors and DOPs, Serbian photographer Luka Trajkovic creates images that appear to be taken right out of a film.

Roman Jehanno | Artisans of Southern France

Roman Jehanno

Artisans of Southern France

Creating his dream roadmap that took him from Monaco to Bordeaux with all the stops in between, Roman discovered the rich multitude of craftwork and ancient practices still being used by his fellow countryfolk in France.

Isabella Tabacchi | Magical Mountainous Landscapes on the XCD 30

ISABELLA TABACCHI

Magical Mountainous Landscapes on XCD 30

Italian photographer Isabella Tabacchi escaped to the dreamy mountain views of the Dolomites and the Swiss Alps to capture the beauty of the Milky Way across the skies and the grand Matterhorn Mountain with the X1D II 50C and XCD 30 lens.