JUSTIN MOTT
TEARSHEETS_JUSTIN_MOTT_PHOTOGRAPHER_VIETNAM.JPG

On Assignment

Journals featuring some of my favorite assignment work from around Southeast Asia and beyond. 

Smithsonian | Cave Art | Maros, Indonesia


This was easily the most logistically challenging assignment I've ever had and the most historical. I was hired by the Smithsonian to travel to a Sulawesi, in Indonesia, an hour’s drive north of the bustling port of Makassar. The assignment was to photograph some of the oldest cave art known to man and photograph two Australian archeaologists and geochemist working in the area.

My journey from Hanoi to Sulawesi wasn't easy, lots of flights and hours of driving finally arriving at their make-shift campsite in the middle of the night. Their really wasn't anyone there to great me and in the confusion no one informed me to bring a mosquito net or a sleeping bag. I thought I was spending the night in a hotel but instead I slept on a piece of wood being drained of my blood courtesy of the local mosquito population. 

I awoke the next day a little grumpy from lack of sleep and the lack of communication about my lodging arrangement but shit happens and after a cup of coffee I was eager to get shooting. The writer for the story was leaving the same day as I arrived and while that's not ideal, this is how it had to be because of our schedules.

I spent the next several days splitting my time following around my subjects Adam Brumm and Maxime Aubert, along with photographing their team of local archaeologists. The landscape was magical and the caves were just so fascinating. I really admired the work these people were doing and I wish the book Sapiens had already been out at the time because I would've been much more knowledgeable about the history of mankind.

Both of them were wonderful hosts to me and Maxime had to head back to Australia early but I spent a couple evening chatting with Adam and learning about his work, truly fascinating. He generously shared his whiskey with me and taught be about his work and then I realized what a completely douche move of me to come all these way, stay at their camp, and not bring them some booze from civilization. I still feel bad to this day and my lesson learned from this assignment wasn't how to light cave art it was don't be an ass and bring your hosts a gift next time.

The trip was fantastic, we explored all sorts of caves and the Smithsonian gave me a great spread.  Adam and Maxime went on to be quite famous in their field and well deserved for two nice guys. I know this because years later I still get requests from editors looking to purchase my images of them(well not purchase they want them for free but I have to explain that images cost money).

Read the full article on the Smithsonian website here. 



Details

Client | Smithsonian Magazine

Location | Maros, Indonesia 

Shooting Days | 4

Equipment | Canon 1DX Mark 2, Canon L-Serie Prime Lenses, ThinkTank backpack.