Every career has a reality TV show nowadays, from chefs to pawn brokers, but what about photographers? When I was asked to be the resident photographer on History Asia’s first home grown reality show about photography, Photo Face-Off, I jumped at the chance.
The show is regional only, filming in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Indonesia. It was described to me as Iron Chef meets Amazing Race. The show has essentially made photography a sport and being a competitive dude I love this idea.
I was confident and maybe a little cocky about my skills because I shoot all kinds of professional photography. I’ve shot over 100 assignments for the New York Times all over Asia, and I also run a successful wedding photography and commercial photography business. I’m use to working under pressure and working quickly.
I was a little worried that my looks might hinder my chances at being selected. The producers had only seen my old biography pictures where I had a full head of hair and was decently fat. The updated version of myself was larger and lets say less hair present. I was later told the Advertising Agency was disappointed that my looks didn’t match my picture; you have to love that Asian honesty.
I slammed an afternoon whiskey at my office to loosen up the nerves and had my friend interview me for my audition video.
I’m a goofy dude and that showed, and the next thing you know a tall fat American photographer was put on TV.
The show pits me up against amateur photographers all over the region and is based on the Canon PhotoMarathon, a popular yearly photography contest in most major cities throughout Southeast Asia.
Through the course of an episode I go head to head against the amateur local photographer in 3 different challenges and we use everything from the top of the line DSLR’s to compact cameras. The playing field is leveled by time restrictions and extreme circumstances like having to get a macro shot of bees without wearing protective gloves. I don’t always win and the show humbled me quite a bit.
The show is part entertainment and part education and it caters to any level of interest in photography. After the show was finished, I got to travel to all the Canon PhotoMarathon events in the Southeast Asia and talk about photography. It’s amazing how many people come to these events — there were thousands. I was enthralled about the passion for photography in Southeast Asia; people are so hungry to learn.
Season 1 was a huge success for the network and Season 2 was just given the go ahead. We start filming in Singapore at the end of this month and I can’t wait to compete.
About the author: Justin Mott is photographer and founder of Mott Visuals, a boutique photography and film production studio based in Thailand and Vietnam serving all of Asia and beyond. Visit his website here.