"I’ve wanted to embark on a personal project in Vietnam for several years,” says well-known American photographer Justin Mott. “I wanted that project to be peaceful and focused around beauty.”
Based in Vietnam for over a decade, Justin’s professional career in Southeast Asia has seen him shoot for the New York Times, Time Magazine, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian. He is also a judge on the History Channel’s reality TV show, Photo Face-Off. The show is now in its fourth series.
“This country has given me everything I am today,” he says. “I have a huge debt of gratitude to Vietnam and the people.”
Yet it took the catalyst of a quote by Shakespeare for him to realise it was time to put his plans into action.
“I was at home listening to a podcast. The guest referred to a Shakespeare quote ‘I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.’ It rattled me and reminded me I’m getting older and made me ponder my career and my future.”
Two images from Justin Mott's project, As Above, So Below
The result is a two-year-long project called As Above, So Below. The aim is to draw a connection between the people and their surroundings to showcase the beauty of Vietnam. This is in contrast to much of Justin’s work on Vietnam, which has focused on war and the past.
“We all have a bond with the landscapes that surround us, from a rice farmer to their field to a young family living in a bustling city,” explains Justin. “My process will be to start in each location with an aerial (above) shot that captures a stunning landscape and then focus on capturing a connecting image I take on the ground (below). For part of the series the connection between above and below might be obvious, but other times the connection will be more abstract.”
Upon completion, the images will be available to download for free directly from Justin’s website both as single images and as diptychs for private and commercial use. The plan is to make it as easy as possible for people in Vietnam to have access to the collection.
The photos in As Above, So Below will be available for free as both single images and diptychs
Yet putting together such a body of work is not simple. Especially when it comes to aerial photography. The problem, says Justin, is that “you never know what you are going to see until you put the drone in the sky.”
“The great part of the aerial photography is most people haven’t seen Vietnam from above like this before,” he continues. “Creating a bond specifically between two images with the above with the below is something new to me, it will force me to think differently. I love that.”
Through the images Justin is hoping to show the “pure beauty this country has from north to south”.
He adds: “I’ve spent a decade shooting for others, someone else’s story, someone else’s words. But this is mine and when I’m done it will be Vietnam’s.”
For more info on Justin Mott and his project, As Above, So Below, click on mottvisuals.com or go to instagram.com/ode_to_vietnam/. An introduction to the project can be found at vimeo.com/222299028/c60542b347
Portrait of Justin Mott by Bao Zoan