Justin Mott & The Caretakers

Written by Fredrik Franzén on . Posted in Portrait Photography

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Ba Vi Portraits Best 009 266x400 Justin Mott & The Caretakers

©Justin Mott

The first time we talked to Vietnam-based photographer Justin Mott was on Twitter. Justin tweeted us and asked what portable lighting solutions we had to offer. A couple of months later, Justin returned and asked what portable power sources we had. Then a couple of weeks ago, Justin finally emailed us the images he had shot with his new gear.

“At first I was intimidated by lighting,” says Justin. “Right up until I bought my D1 Kit, I used available light as much as possible – even on commercial shoots. Then I rented a strobe set up and found out it wasn’t that hard to use. And I loved the results. I loved how the process of lighting differed from documentary work. I could create a scene instead of waiting for one to unfold. That was new to me.”

Ba Vi Portraits Best 005 e1342187610670 Justin Mott & The Caretakers

©Justin Mott

Ba Vi Portraits Best 010 e1342187637681 Justin Mott & The Caretakers

©Justin Mott

IMG 3427 copy e1342187662347 Justin Mott & The Caretakers

©Justin Mott

What were the most important factors you considered when you looked into different lighting solutions?

“Reliability, without a doubt. Vietnam is still a developing country. We don’t have service centers or anything like that. I was planning on traveling to remote places with my lighting, so I needed something that I could count on. I began asking around to fellow photographers and Profoto equipment was universally recommended.

“Another factor was ease of use and something I could grow into. I didn’t come from a lighting background, so I wanted something that wasn’t too complicated and the D1 kit is extremely simple to learn. I only own a few modifiers at the moment, but I’ve got my eye on some new ones that I’m eager to try out.”

The images you sent us, what can you tell us about them?

“About 6 years ago, I did a story about an orphanage for victims of Agent Orange which was eventually published as a multimedia story in Newsweek. I’ve wanted to revisit this place and try another project there for years. I wanted to do something different this time, and I wanted to take my new lighting gear out in the field with me. I decided to do a portrait series about the woman who work at the orphanage. I didn’t go there with a focus; I wanted an idea to come to me after I looked around.

“The caretakers really act as maintenance workers rather than caretakers of the children. It may sound harsh, but the workers only interact with the children when they are feeding or washing them. I wanted to subtly capture this disconnect by leaving out the children from the pictures and do a portrait series showing the woman in their surroundings. I observed them working and had them stop and pose while doing their everyday work.”

How did you light the portraits?

“I used the BatPac as my power source for every shot because we were rarely next to an outlet. Everything was shot with my D1 500 Air kit. As main light, I used the Softbox 3’ Octa. I also used the Beauty Dish on a couple of portraits. I really dig that soft light on their faces. Also, I used the Grid Reflector with a 7’’ grid to fill in some areas when needed and as a backlight on a couple of the shots.”

See more of Justin’s images at his website.

Ba Vi Portraits Best 004 Justin Mott & The Caretakers

©Justin Mott

Ba Vi Portraits Best 002 e1342187589281 Justin Mott & The Caretakers

©Justin Mott

Ba Vi Portraits Best 001 e1342187576572 Justin Mott & The Caretakers

©Justin Mott

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Comments (2)

  • Eric Kayne


    Go into the light, Justin! With a background in fairly straight photojournalism, I’ve never made a better decision (other than marrying my wife, of course) than to learn about and how to use portable studio lights. Profotos are the best. I’m hoping to be able to afford a kit some day soon.


  • Justin Mott


    Thanks Eric, I’m loving my kit. I can’t wait to dive deeper into new projects and explore what I can do with lighting.


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