Winner, One Shot – Extraordinary category
Travel Photographer of the Year 2013

You can buy this and other Travel Photographer of the Year prints online here.

Justin grew up in a small town in Rhode Island, USA on Appleseed Drive surrounded by ripe apple orchards. Even though his last name is Mott he is unfortunately not related to the apple juice/sauce titan. He studied photojournalism at San Francisco State University but a year before he was set to graduate he took a trip to South East Asia, fell in love with the region and eventually settled in Vietnam. He never returned to school, but did once write an essay on the current state of photo-journalism for Harvard’s Nieman Reports, so he considers himself an ‘Ivy Leaguer’.

You can see more of Justin’s work here

Justin Mott photographer1. Where are you from?
I’m originally from Rhode Island in the USA but I’ve lived in Vietnam for almost a decade.

2. What first got you into photography and how old were you? 
I was taking journalism classes at San Francisco State University and part of our program was to take a photography class. That class got me out of the lecture halls and onto the streets of San Francisco where I fell in love with visual storytelling through my lens.

3. How do you look to approach and capture your next best shot? 
I first push myself to do something unique and extraordinary and then I push my subject to do the same.

4. What has being involved with the Travel Photographer of the Year done for your photography career? 
It’s been wonderful, people know me as the “elephant guy” I had no idea the contest had so much reach. I give talks at Canon Photo Marathons all over South East Asia in front of thousands of people and all anyone wants to talk about is how I got that elephant shot.

5. Tell us the story of your profiled picture 
I had a client who contracted me to photograph her beautiful vacation home in Phuket, Thailand. She wanted to showcase her pool that she claimed was the a largest private pool in Asia. She also wanted to bring something Thai to the shoot so she casually threw out the idea of hiring an elephant. Earlier in the day I was shooting the model underwater and when the elephant showed up I had the idea to add an extra layer with the model underwater and the elephant at the edge of the pool, out of the water. I used an underwater bag for the half-submerged shot. The pool was above ground, and the elephant walking on the ground behind the wall of the pool.


Justin Mott photographer

 A model swimming underwater with an elephant at the edge of the pool in Phuket, Thailand | © Justin Mott. You can buy this print online here.

6. Where is your favourite place you have visited, and why?
I love Hanoi, Vietnam. It’s my home city and I live there because it has so much character, texture, and grit.

7. Tell us a fascinating fact or story from your travels 
A picture I took once saved a man’s life and not because I’m talented or any thing like but because the right person saw my picture and made a difference. I photographed an emaciated man in a TB ward in Siem Reap, Cambodia. A nurse for Doctors Without Borders saw that picture and realized he wasn’t on the right meds and she took charge and had me bring her to him. She got him on the right track and saved his life. Often as a photographer you are just the middle man between a problem and a solution and sometimes that means giant policy change or it could just be one person’s life changing.

8. What piece of advice would you give someone starting out on their photography ‘career’? 
Photographers love to tell you that you have to have a great eye to succeed and you must have natural talent. The first major workshop I did overseas I was in a class of 10 photographers of which I was the least talented. I worked my butt off and never got complacent and now 10 years later I’m the only one out of that ten that makes a full time living off of photography.

For more information on Travel Photographer of the Year or to enter, visit

For more information on Justin, visit