- April 02, 2021
- 8 min to read
An Interview with Justin Mott, an American Photographer Living in Vietnam
Justin Mott is a professional Vietnam-based photographer who shot over 100 assignments in SE Asia for The New York Times. His works has been also featured on BBC, TIME, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The Smithsonian, and The Guardian.
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
I wish someone taught me the business side of photography from the beginning. Things like contracts, pricing, getting a deposit before a shoot, etc.
Why do you take photos? What inspires you?
I started in photography because of my short attention span. I was studying writing at university in San Francisco and part of my curriculum was a photography class. For that class we had to explore the city with our cameras and I just loved being outside of the classroom and wandering around. I started to see things differently and I loved having a creative outlet.
I’m inspired by telling stories, I love visual storytelling.
Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?
I realize the true power of photography when I was browsing a book by Philip Jones Griffiths at a bookstore about victims of agent orange in Vietnam. The book made me cry, his photos of disabled children were so heart wrenching.
Stylistically I was influenced by the legendary war photographer James Nachtwey. I love the humanity and art in his images.
What do you want to say with your photographs, and how do you actually get your photographs to do that?
I try to set a mood with light, the way I search for it and expose for it is where I start. Then I search for emotion or a moment within that light.
What technology/software/camera gear do you use
I’m shooting my personal project right now with the Hasselblad X1D and I love the files on that camera.
How do you choose what you are going to shoot?
For my personal work I choose based on my interests and curiosity at that time in my life. For my commercial work it’s obviously based on what the client pays me to shoot ☺.
What kind of tools do you use for post-processing? Explain your workflow.
I tag my images using a very fast program called Photo Mechanic, I’ve used it since college. From there I import the tagged photos into Lightroom for color correction and basic editing. If the job is commercial or requires heavier retouching I use Capture One Pro to fine tune the images.
Among your works, which one is your favorite? Why?
My current project “As Above So Below” is my favorite because I get to explore all of Vietnam and I get to experiment with different genres of photography such as portraits, landscapes, aerial, and street. Also, this is the first time I’m started a personal project in many years so it’s nice to have this as new creative outlet.
What was the most curious story behind your photograph?
I photographed an elephant in a pool once with a model swimming in front of it. What people didn’t know was the model and myself were both underwater navigating our way around the elephants poop in order to get a good shot.
Most of Justin’s works can be found on his website, also you can read tips and stories about photography on his blog. Follow him on Instagram to see his latest images.