Reality TV host talks about his rise in the world of photography
Justin Mott, one of Asia and the world’s most versatile photographers, who has captured weddings to disasters and everything in between, is also an engaging and entertaining character as seen on TV.
Mott is the resident professional photographer on Photo Face-Off—a reality TV show on History Channel where he competes against and judges amateur photographers throughout Southeast Asia.
But before becoming famous for his art, Mott faced many challenges that made him pushed him rather than deter him from pursing his passion for the lens. A late bloomer in photography, he only took it up when he moved to California in 1999 where he studied photojournalism at San Francisco State University from 2002 to 2006.
Sharing his history on his blog, he related how he he applied for the prestigious Eddie Adams Workshop in 2006 but was turned down. The said workshop is an intense four-day gathering of top photography professionals, which carefully selects only 100 students.
“I didn’t really put my best effort into my application and my portfolio was fairly weak. I remembered the feeling of disappointment and I didn’t want to forget that feeling so I printed the rejection email and stuffed it into the zipper pocket of my black Domke camera bag. I used it as a reminder to work harder on my stories and on myself as an individual,” he wrote.
A year later, with perseverance and determination, he was eventually accepted into the Eddie Adams workshop in 2007. It was an opportunity for him to be invited into the TIME photo department where he was sent out in the field.
“In December 2007 I was given a small assignment in Hanoi for TIME. It wasn’t a major project but for me it meant the world,” Mott said.
Since then, Mott’s photos have appeared in every major publication in the world, including over 100 assignments worldwide for the New York Times alone.
His work doesn’t stop in editorial, however, as he also runs Mott Visuals, a commercial photography and video production studio with a client list that includes global corporations such as Microsoft, Reebok, Unilever, Intercontinental Hotels, Ogilvy & Mather, to name a few.
Asked to give inspiring tips to newbie photographers, he told The Manila Times in an interview, “Photographers, especially the amateurs, are always worried that they are not talented, that they don’t have a natural eye for it. I tell people my story from when I started 10 years ago in the hopes of inspiring them. Back then, I did a workshop in Cambodia with 10 other photographers, and I was easily the worst one. The teachers thought I was horrible and I was.
“Ten years later, here I am because I worked hard for it. Among the 10 of us who did that workshop, I’m the only one who is a professional photographer today. They were all better than me, so you see it’s all about perseverance like anything else. You just have to hone your craft and you should also push yourself,” Mott added.
Mott was in the Philippines for the first ever History Convention held at the World Trade Center from August 25 to 28. He joined a star-studded line-up of popular History personalities who held meet-and-greets, hosted talks and conducted workshops throughout the four-day event.
“I feel honored to be among stars of the History Channel. I am just a simple photographer and it is fun to represent the photography community here and of course represent and Photo Face Off,” Motts enthused. “It’s also exciting to see the hunger and passion people have in the Philippines for photography. Being part of the History Con—how appropriate—it’s historical,” the 37-year-old Mott shared further with The Manila Times.
Now on its third season, Mott’s competitive reality show is back with a fresh format, a brand new bunch of eager amateur contestants and another 15 photo challenges designed to test even the most ardent snapper.
“There are a lot of exciting things about it. It’s a first of its kind, against the amateur and the pro. The amateurs need to beat me as a photographer. We’ll travel all around South East Asia. Last year we filmed here in the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, in Indonesia. This year we’re in the same countries, except the Philippines. But next year we’ll talk about the possibly of doing the show here again,” he shared.
Asked what he likes most about being on a reality TV show, Mott replied, “It’s educational. You know, photography right now is the most popular hobby in the entire world. With Instagram, there are hundred and millions of followers and I want people to learn the basics of photography. And every single episode, every single challenge, you’ll learn something. I love that about the show—it’s educational, it’s fun, and also going to different countries you’ll learn something about the culture. It’s made a photography a sport.”
Photo Face-Off premiers September 8 at 9 p.m. on History Channel.