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Photo-travel show star: Strong passion for photography in PH

By: -Writing Editor
/ 12:03 AM August 29, 2016


“PHOTOGRAPHERS love to tell you, ‘You have a natural eye,’ but I think you have to work hard, understand and work on your craft like anything else,” the animated shutterbug star of “Photo Face-Off,” Justin Mott, told the Inquirer last Thursday at the History Con in World Trade Center Manila.

The convention was a welcome change of pace for the spirited photographer, who can talk a mile a minute, and is able to dispense sound advice in between. “I live in Vietnam, so I’ve been in Asia for a long time,” said Mott, who grew up in Rhode Island. “I love it here. It’s the first time that I’m spending a good amount of time in Manila. Normally, I’m on the other side of the camera. It’s fun to be on the other side!”

The award-winning photographer, whose pictures have appeared in publications like Time and Forbes, stars anew in History’s “Photo Face-Off” (starting Sept. 8, 9 p.m.), a competition where he judges—and is pitted against—amateur contestants.


“It’s a new format. Only the winner of every country gets a shot at me. It’s humbled me because I’ve lost—to a 12-year-old! I’m not happy about that. I still think my photo’s better. I’m still a sore loser. I think I’ve changed—I’m more critical, because I want to teach people something!”

Excerpts from the chat:

What elements make up the best composition?

The best composition is the one that tells a story. If you’re using something in your foreground, it should have a purpose. Some war photographers may shoot through a window that’s been shot by bullets or something like that. You should always have a purpose with each layer of your shot and how you frame something. Put a lot of thought into it.

Conversely, what can be counted as bad images?

They’re sloppy or have no story. Like, if there’s a tree [sprouting] behind my head, that can be distracting. Composition to me is like a puzzle. You’d always want to put the pieces together and make it look the best you can.

Which countries are part of the new season?

Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and we shot the finale in Vietnam. Last year, we had the Philippines. I was bummed [that it was excluded]. Hopefully, next year—I’m fighting for it. There’s a strong passion here for photography and the level of photography is amazing.


What’s the proper training for aspiring photographers?

You have to be able to shoot everything. It’s key to find a distinct style. I have a commercial business; I shoot video, [but] my core style remains. Know how to market that style.

DREAMLIKE imagery in one of Mott’s photographs

DREAMLIKE imagery in one of Mott’s photographs

What advice do you give that isn’t taught in photography courses?

Young photographers need to understand the business side. It’s something they don’t teach you. When you’re a photographer, you’re your own business. You need to have your own marketing, logo, website—and people get discouraged when they’re not good right away. When I was in school, I was told I was good. When I [took] a workshop with international photographers, I was the worst! Now, 10 years later, I’m the only professional photographer. It’s just working hard and staying with it.

Tell us about the show’s entertainment value.

The show is very playful and educational. You’ll learn things on the fly. We’re the only show of its kind. Even if you’re not interested in photography, you’ll learn about different cultures.

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TAGS: Entertainment, Photo Face-Off, Photography, Television
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