Boating in A Portrait | Martino Motti: “At 9 years old, my grandparents gave me two cameras. I was stunned by that technology and began to photograph everything I saw”

Martino Motti is a journalist and underwater and reportage photographer specialized in yachts and superyachts, who photographs and trials them for several nautical magazines

Martino Motti was born in Milan in 1966; he now lives in Genova. At 21 years old he became a scuba diving instructor for FIPS/CMAS and started working as a diver in underwater archaeological digs on the Enea, belonging to the cooperative, Aquarius led by the archaeologist Alice Freschi. In those five years he acquired a strong seafaring and navigational culture.

In 1992 he began his professional career as an underwater photographer and travel reporter, afterwards becoming a journalist registered in the National Order of Journalists and a partner with Italian and foreign magazines such as Mondo Sommerso, Tauchen and Diver magazine. In 1999 he received his nautical license and in 2002 began testing and photographing boats for the magazines Nautica and Superyacht, with whom he is still working today.

He has photographed and tested over 350 yachts and has published over 600 articles over 20 magazines. Today, after 30 years of professional photographic experience, that has also been in other fields (industrial, publicity, still-life, art and events), he works with shipyards, brokers, captains, and owners as a photographer of yachts and superyachts, both sail and motor, and carries out commissions photographing interiors, exteriors, in navigation, by helicopter, and with drones. Since 2010 he has also been working as an artist in the psychedelic re-elaboration of underwater images in the collection “SeaLosophy”.


Martino Motti what came first, your passion for photography or for boats? How did these two passions meet?

When I was 9 years old, my grandparents gave me two cameras, a Kodak Retina and a bi-optic Rolleiflex. I was stunned by that technology and began photographing everything I saw. After a few years, I dedicated myself to photographing mountains on the glaciers of Monte Rosa, which I explored passionately. From mountain to sea is a small step and I found myself with an underwater camera, a Nikonos V.

My first decent underwater photograph was published in the magazine “Sub” shortly after. This pushed me to take part in underwater photography competitions which encouraged me to transform this passion into a profession. I began working with magazines in the industry, “Sub” and “Aqua” until Folco Quilici, after having seen one of my photo exhibits in Genova, took me on to work for “Mondo Sommerso”. From that moment on, I had thousands of dives in all the seas of the world looking for the perfect shot, from the most exclusive and exotic reportage to the most exciting encounters with great sea animals: an adventure which continues alongside my life partner.

One day at the Salone Nautico di Genova I met a very good underwater photographer, Luca Sonnino Sorisio, who had just published his photographic book: Rapsodia Blu. Our common passion connected us, and my reportage also came out in the magazine “Nautica”, which he directed. Boating came as a natural evolution of my work with that magazine, and with that, my tests on the boats, reviews and showcases of large yachts. Now I work with no territorial limits, especially abroad, and I go immortalise boats in some of the most beautiful places in the Mediterranean, and beyond.


Who knows how many people have told you, “It is easy to take a beautiful picture when you are photographing beautiful boats”. But we know that is not the case. What things do you need to keep in mind when photographing a yacht?


That statement could seem true in general, but creating a professional portrait of a yacht means you have to understand its essence, understand the soul of the designer and builders, see beyond the materials and shapes to try and give back the most faithful image you can, more real and authentic, but emphasizing in the best way you can, its aesthetics by using the best framing possible. Certainly the use of top of the line equipment and techniques and procedures I developed, which I won’t share here, make a difference.

I love mixing the artificial lights of the vessels with the natural light at different times during the day, to capture the most evocative atmosphere. Even my boating knowledge, being used to being on board, helps me find my way around yachts and on tenders in order to work confidently and safely. Let’s not forget that photography is also art and my 40 years of experience, in a number of different fields, allows me now to mix together, in an eclectic and versatile manner, the different techniques in order to get what I am after every time.


You showcase yachts and superyachts not only through your eyes but also through your pen. How do you write up a test for a superyacht?


I describe superyachts by going on board, trying to live on the vessel in order to share its architectural and technological characteristics, I try to identify myself in that exclusive and extraordinary lifestyle, and I express the excellence that the combined efforts of the designer and builders can create with head spinning budgets. The pleasure boating licence I obtained over 20 years ago allows me to sail vessels up to 24 metres long, and this is the reason why I only test up to this size.

Once I am on board I need to get into sync with the vessel, feel it and know it, in order to unveil its positive sides and any criticisms for my readers, understand its performance in terms of speed, consumption, liveability and usability, so that my brief but intense experience on board can help the market to choose the best vessel for their needs. In order to carry out a good test I believe it is fundamental to have experience accumulated over decades of working with passion above and under the sea, including my inexhaustible curiosity for the world of technology and design.


Is there a picture you are particularly tied to? And if so, why?


It is hard to say among the many thousands of images in my archive, even though I remember each and every image. I could, however, tell you about two in particular, one for boating and one underwater. The photo of the superyacht The Wellesley, 54 meters long at anchor off Portofino on a stormy night with very particular light, was chosen and added to a book uniting the most significant photographs of yachts in the last 20 years. It is part of a complete and intense session I did on that boat, that was very successful with the broker and owner.

The second was off the island of Va’vau, in the Tonga Archipelago in the Pacific Ocean: after over a kilometre of solitary swimming in those crystal clear waters, I saw a humpback whale about 15 metres long with its calf. The huge cetacean slowly rolled over just 3 metres away from me and looked at me with a huge expressive eye, like she was trying to understand who I was: after all these years, the emotion I felt in that encounter still makes my skin tingle, and that picture is maybe the one I feel expresses my essence.


Beyond your job, what is your relationship like with the sea?


I was born in Milan and lived there until I was 25, my marriage brought me to Genova, a marvellous city I now feel is my own, and the sea was necessarily an accomplice to that change. I could never think of living in a place far away from this liquid, ever changing, and captivating element. For work or pleasure I enjoy it nearly year round, even though the mountains and skiing continue to be an important part of my life.

I have let my scuba diving fall to the side ever since we became owners of our own sailboat: “Best Shot”. What other name could I have given my boat? It is a beautiful Dufour 41 classic from 1998, an old lady of the sea that gives us a lot of satisfaction and accompanies us in long treks across the Mediterranean, on holiday, but especially as a base for my geographical reportage or portraits of large yachts.

I use my boat year round also to take photographs and subjects tied to my artistic production, abstract and unexpected glimpses of marine nature. And recently, the company, MSC Crociere furnished all the cabins and halls of its vessels “Seaside” and “Seaview” with my geographical and underwater images.


Giuseppe Orrù


Photo by Claudio Colombo


BOATING IN A PORTRAIT. A project by Liguria Nautica and Claudio Colombo showcasing a gallery of Ligurian people or those who have ties with our region, who have left their mark on Italian boating, or who have deep rooted connections with our sea. For each of them, we present a photographic portrait take by Claudio Colombo and an interview with our journalist, Giuseppe Orrù, to better know each person, in their personal lives as well.

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