Written by Julia Carlisle
The cliché of an accountant is someone who’s beige in form and color, a person who toils in the back office over the years with only numbers and spreadsheets for friends. Then the accountant – little seen – with few accolades over the course of keeping small companies and large corporations on the straight and narrow, that accountant simply fades away: Not Jessica Mott.
This accountant, who has made a living by the numbers, colorfully, brightly jumps off the page of life with her short, spiky blonde hair, her glittery glasses frames, her big smile and a New York artistic sensibility. She was then (as a 30-year old) and is now (as a 50-year old) primarily a photographer, recently inviting fellow visual artists to join her ‘Petaluma Shutterbugs’ Meet-Up, a group that has grown to 60 members in just a few months.
Moving to New York City from California in her early 30’s with no job and just an offer to live in a big loft, she became part of and embraced the East Village Punk Scene. She attended Cooper Union art school and took classes at the International Center of Photography. Life felt easy then, with one book-keeping job and then another falling into her lap. She says during those days she had a lot of self-confidence, even commuting all over Manhattan on her bike. Embracing her “badass” she proudly explains “I only got ‘doored’ once.” Even today, back in California, doing the Mom “thing” she makes time to keep her punk rock sensibility. Her 12-year old daughter (she also has a young son) concurs on the topic of hipness, “My Mom is the only Mom I know with short, spiky hair.”
However, there was a time when the muse died. Mott stopped taking and making photographs altogether. She was in New York on 9/11. She took a bag of film and went down to Lower Manhattan shooting photos of all the signs put up by desperate people looking for their missing friends and family members. That was enough. She didn’t pick up a camera again for ten years.
Photography has changed over the years from the old (wonderful!) dark room days spent working on light and exposure to digital manipulation on a computer with software like Lightroom. In fact, Mott, who loves dark rooms – they make her happy – just got a digital camera this year.
Practicing her art, making a commitment to take pictures again, seems to have brought this punk wild child back full circle to the good old days of artistic self-confidence. The numbers game – accounting and comptroller work – has paid her family bills. But now Mott is clearly back in her own chosen game, giving WORK’s Natasha Juliana a big high-five for encouraging her to do what makes her happy, becoming a professional photographer. “She’s been super-supportive,” says Mott.
While back in New York, Mott mostly took “street” photographs but one of her favorite pictures-because of its “just right” light and shadow – is of an acrobat at a Burlesque show. Now, as a professional, she has been experimenting with shooting more people and events. Her eyes light up when she talks about her “Petaluma Shutterbugs” documenting the Rivertown Festival, Lagunitas Circus, and Peggy Sue Car Show. Plus, Mott says she has never really tried landscapes, so that horizon is beckoning.
Still an edgy punk rocker on the inside, Mott is also a steady Mom and well aware of what she is modeling for her kids, “I’m trying to get them to understand about hard work, working really hard at things.” Attitude is everything, too. There are weekends when Mott goes full New York East Village, motorcycle boots on (yes, she rode a motorcycle for years) and, camera slung, takes on the world.