Jill P. Mott Photography
Jill P. Mott is a photojournalist, journalism educator, content producer and digital storyteller based in Fort Collins, Colo.
Mott, who earned her undergraduate degree in news photography from the acclaimed Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University, is driven by the need to share the stories that shape lives, the moments bursting with joy as well as those filled with despair. She has photographed the miracle of birth, and documented a woman’s final breaths as she died of AIDS. As a newbie journalist, Mott even documented the fall of the Berlin Wall under the tutelage of storied National Geographic Director of Photography Robert Gilka.
The Northern California native is more than an award-winning daily newspaper photographer. She left one photojournalism job to live in Zimbabwe where she met her husband Patrick, who would become father to their only child, Rafiki, and where she would create a nonprofit Kids With Cameras program that allowed youth with limited opportunity and no photography experience to document the world as they saw it.
“I wanted to empower them with more critical thinking skills. Education in Zimbabwe is very chalk talk. There’s not a lot of art or thinking outside the box. There is a lack of empowerment. The kids made some incredible images.”
Mott returned home after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks amid growing political strife in Zimbabwe. She headed to California where she earned a master’s degree in art education from San Jose State University before returning to Colorado.
Mott teaches the ever-expanding tools of her trade at The Art Institute of Colorado in Denver. Like her students, Mott is inspired by the many new ways to tell stories, from videos to pod casts - all of which have added depth to her work.
“The digital canvas is boundless. There are so many opportunities for video, for audio, for stills, for flipbooks, for time lapse. It’s very exciting, and, it’s what’s expected. You have to be entertained and educated through multiple mediums.”
But the newly available tools don’t change her fundamental philosophy regarding documentary photography.
“I understand and recognize the privilege we have every day to come into a complete stranger’s home and photograph their most intimate situations because we hold a camera and work for a newspaper.”
For Mott, the real joy comes from time spent in someone else’s world.
One of the meaningful stories was the year she spent documenting the last months of AIDS patient and mother Rosella Dawson in Northern Colorado.
“It taught me a lot about people, about illness, about death and dying, about my job, what my responsibilities are, the fine line you always walk as a journalist, ethics and telling a story.”
Mott’s work has also been shaped by illness in her own family. At age 3, her son was diagnosed with leukemia and continues to face treatment. She finds she is no longer able to distance herself from her subjects who have experienced a similar kind of loss.
At this stage in her life and career, Mott’s intention is to continue her work empowering people through images.
“Storytelling is important on a basic universal level… so we’re still able to relate to each other with a certain amount of vulnerability and emotion.”