The Human Pulse

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The Human Pulse A Photographic Series by JOHN ELLIOTT


In dedication to my mother, who allowed me the freedom to explore; and my daughter Danielle, a most spiritually gifted source of inspiration and strength.

The Human Pulse a Photographic Series By John D. Elliott

2nd Edition 2016


hen I was about six I discovered The Family of Man. This seminal work of photography and prose, a book edited by Edward Steichen and incorporating some of the magnificent visual opus of Life Magazine, has been continuously published in thirty editions since it first appeared without much fanfare on magazine stands in 1955. Only recently did I recollect perusing and admiring it as a child, but the memories were immediate and vivid. Although I have not seen this book for decades, I can easily reflect on my interest and curiosity prompted by many of the hundreds of photographs within. The accompanying poetry and writing were beyond my ability, but I subsequently discovered the reputation of Carl Sandburg, James Joyce and many of the other contributors. Thus recently musing upon the genesis of my photographic series, The Human Pulse, I was pleasantly surprised to be able to track the scent so far in the past. It wouldn’t be until ten years after I first turned the pages of The Family of Man that I discovered the thrill of traveling to, and living in, other countries, and growing to appreciate all the amazing ideas and approaches of different cultures. But, growing up in New York City, in the hustle of Manhattan, other cultures were all around me. My father would delight in taking the family to Chinese restaurants, where we were encouraged to eat in culturally “authentic” ways, with chopsticks and over hot oolong tea. Or at a Polish eatery he would coax me into trying borscht–no matter that I loathed both beets and cold soups. Although a lifelong atheist and born a Jew, he once taught me and one of my two sisters how to pray to Allah as the Muslims would, and the chant remains chiseled in my mind. (My Christian mother countered, eventually, by sending us to a private school where the devotional liturgy was still chanted in Latin.) The city of my youth was then as it is today blessed with the glittering galaxy of human activity and ethnic complextion. One of my early memories, probably at around age four, is watching outside our apartment window overlooking the


building courtyard, as some Jewish families built temporary succah structures from old doors and such, an annual tradition following the High Holy Days. From the front side of the building, even in the 1960s, I could sometimes observe from a window the rag collectors or junk dealers in their pathetic, horse-drawn carts. Or a scissors-sharpener, loudly promoting his craft. A visit to lower Manhattan was a montage of diverse faces, scents and sounds, especially when I was brought to the fish market or a Greek shop for feta cheese and olives. A lucky fellow was I, for my friends in school often hailed from enchanting places that captured my curiosity, such as the girl from Saudi Arabia in first grade who was so mysteriously reserved. Or a good friend, Herbert Labrada of Puerto Rico, whose apartment was steeped with the scent of arroz con pollo, frijoles and the thrill of chili sauce. My best friends came in all tints and attitudes, from the young Afro-American proto-scientist Otis Ward to George Schnell, of German roots and whose older sister would humiliate me in wrestling play. At the age of thirteen, my sisters and I were suddenly informed by my father the family would be moving to Florida. Disaster! I thought; in “The South” I imagined everyone was “backwards,” and I could already sense an inchoate pang of elitism. But the plans were made (ironically “to escape the high level of crime” and before we could know the effects of the drug trade soon to befall Miami) and a tyrant’s decision is always final. Arriving in the Miami area in the ‘70s was to be a treat, however. I rather enjoyed the sudden summer showers while the sun still shone, and the already dominant culture of the Cuban emigres was also of interest to me. Soon, I found myself striving to learn Spanish–if only so I could decipher what my classmates were saying about me, the new kid. At fourteen, I took a class in drafting, part of which involved learning photography and darkroom skills and which soon completely captured my interest and passion. I soon saved up some money from my first job (at a camera store) for an adequate camera, a 35mm Mamiya Sensorex SLR. The next year, in high school, I joined the marching band and my mother somehow came up with the money to pay for me to go on a band trip to Europe. While in the first country of our trip, England, my camera fell to the bottom of the lovely Avon River when my buddy decided to stand up in the canoe, capsizing us. In spite of that debacle, I completely enjoyed discovering the delights of Europe. I took photos with my mind’s eye and resolved to return someday. The following year, however, my travels were markedly different, in terms

of culture and destination. During my junior year in high school, I joined a volunteer health care group, Amigos de Las America, and trained with two dozen other youths from the area, in medicine, cultural awareness and Spanish. That summer, I traveled for nearly a month throughout a small, mountainous region in Nicaragua, giving measles vaccinations to children, polio drops to babies and English lessons to inhabitants of my impoverished village called Cinco Pinos. With a new (Canon) camera, I began to document the sadness of disease, dirt floors and distended bellies, but also the shy smiles of los jovenes and the regular rewards of pink clouds and redolent sunsets at the close of each day. I served again as a volunteer for this program the following year, in a different part of Nicaragua; then in my first summer of college, as part of the program staff, in Honduras, for more much of the summer break. These three summers became the crucible for my motivation to reach out to the people of

the world, if not in person then through photography. A seminal experience in my life was when the 1972 national conventions came to Miami. I somehow convinced my mother to allow me to take the lengthy bus ride to the convention site each day for a week, where I would prowl both inside and outside the Convention hall, pausing to document the excitement and violence. For the first time I was able to pore over the printed results of my excursions and I reveled in discerning the details I had captured. I chose a college that had a strong journalism program, Ohio University, but which also had a strong fine arts and photography program. My four years at OU were a blissful immersion into the fundamentals of visualizing and art conceptualizing. I found many role models, from Diane Arbus to Henri CartierBresson. My first photographic series, “Victims,” had a strong connection to the sense of the unusual and mysterious. Marriage and starting a family paused the world travels somewhat for a decade, except for a lengthy and high-yielding trip to India with the Rotary Foundation. But as my daughter Danielle entered her teenage years, I resolved to show her the world, and my own personal excursions resumed. (Danielle is carrying the baton of international friendships well, having studied and worked in three continents for the betterment of mankind through music.)

“Miami Bus Riot,” one of the photos I took during the Miami presidental conventions, from my 15-year-old perspective. I discovered to my delight that there was so much information to later perceive–such as the woman in the fortune-teller’s window.


When I joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 2010, it was a hugely rewarding opportunity to spend two years first in Brazil and then in Saudi Arabia, where I could indulge in unhurried photographic exploration. With my wife Rebecca––an excellent photographer in her own rite––often by my side, I seek to reach out to more foreign hands, learn new phrases and discover new friends at different destinations. From the Haitian migrant workers in central Florida to the Icelandic natives bathing in their thermal springs to the Tamils in India who taught me how to avoid marauding elephants, I have found the keys to friendship are as simple as giving a “thank you,” in the indigenous lingo, a willingness to receive a cup of tea or a typical bread, and offering smiles seasoned with humility. If I’m lucky, in addition to sharing friendship and adventure, I return with exposed film or full camera cards, nascent witnesses to my mindset.

Waterfall Explorers

Keilajoa, Estonia 3

Reservoir Boys

Meknes, Morocco 4

The Secret

Djerba Island, Tunisia 5


Nefta, Tunisia 6


Kauaii, Hawaii, USA 7

Spaced Out

Eldborg, Iceland 8

Bubble Divers

Kyiv, Ukraine 9


Carthage, Tunisia 10

Church Play

Zaragoza, Spain 11

Like This

Atlanta, Georgia, USA 12

Street Talk

Napoli, Italy 13

Wildcat Territory

Duluth, Georgia, USA 14


Black Rock City, Nevada, USA 15

Nandi Devotees

Nellore, India 16

Temple Friends

Nellore, India 17

The Comb

Belur, India 18

Tops Champs

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 19

Dona Marta Favela

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 20


New York City, New York, USA 21

Bikini Contestants

Duluth, Georgia, USA 22

Joy in Sorrow

Croix des Bouquettes, Haiti 23

Wildebeest Hands

Dublin, Georgia, USA 24

Cross-Dressing Singers

Bergi, Latvia 25

Wedding Party

Monastir, Tunisia 26

Healing Waters

Kyoto, Japan 27

Separation of Labor

Gulbarga, India 28

Dim Prospects

Nellore, India 29


Hyderabad, India 30

Our River

Dublin, Georgia, USA 31

The Long March

Paris, France 32

Dance of Life

Black Rock City, Nevada, USA 33

Snow Dancers

Vilnius, Lithuania 34

Victims’ Arrival

Jimani, Dominican Republic 35


Destin, Florida, USA 36

Tomatina Thugs

BuĂąol, Spain 37

The Release of Krishna

Atlanta, Georgia, USA 38

Paparazzi and The Starlet

Miami, Florida, USA 39


Rzhishiv, Ukraine 40


Rzhishiv, Ukraine 41

Cells Out

Marietta, Georgia, USA 42

Goodbye Kiss

Queens, New York, USA 43


Cairo, Egypt 44

Spirit Rider

Paraty, Brazil 45

Bliss Rider

Giza, Egypt 46

The Long March II

Paris, France 47

Warm Rocks

Recreo, Brazil 48

Beach Play

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 49


Parnu, Estonia 50

About The Artist John Elliott was born in Spring Valley, New York and for the first dozen years lived in Manhattan, after which he moved with his family to Coral Gables, Florida. It was here that he fell in love with photography, leading to his attendance at Ohio University, from which he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography. With double minors in Spanish and International Studies, he also attended Harvard University to study Arabic. During his summer and other holiday breaks, in both high school and while attending college, he traveled throughout Central America, first as a volunteer health worker and then as a magazine photographer for GeoMundo. Upon graduation, he taught English in Miami and Venezuela, and was hired as an audio-visual specialist for a large corporation. He moved to Atlanta and subsequent years included teaching assignments at the Art Institute of Atlanta, four years as an US Army photographer and five years as a corporate communications manager. Along with other partners, he then founded Millennium Communications, Inc., an advertising, video production, and marketing agency in the Atlanta, Georgia area. Deeply affected by the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, he founded AidWEST Humanitarian Missions and worked throughout the year in medical and efforts on the island nation. He served as medic and team leader for medical and construction teams he gathered from throughout the United

States. In 2011 he joined the U.S. Foreign Service and received a Congressional appointment to serve as Vice Consul in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil through 2013. He subsequently served as Press AttachĂŠ in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia until 2016 before returning to Washington, DC to work for the State Department Justice division. John has had solo and group exhibitions for 30 years. The Human Pulse series debuted at Callanwolde Gallery in Atlanta in 2007. A major solo exhibition was at the Academia Brasileira das Letras in Rio de Janeiro in 2013 (below image) and in 2016 he was the only American artist to be selected for a group show at the Arabian Wings Gallery in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He currently resides in the Washington, DC area with his wife, two daughters, and four cats.

About The Images Many of the photographs in this book originated on film and for exhibition purposes have been darkroom printed on fiber paper. John presently uses both 35mm full-frame digital(Nikon) and 6 x 4.5cm (Mamiya) film camera formats. A limited-edition series of exhibition silver prints were printed archivally and selenium-toned. New images are periodically posted on a dedicated Web site:

$39. 25% of all sales will be donated to AidWEST Humanitarian Missions © 2016 John Elliott • All Rights Reserved • Representative Contact:


John Elliott on “The Human Pulse” ”For this series on the universality of humanity, I seek dynamic or interrelated movements of people within the depth of physical space. There may be the pulse of youthful freedom and exuberance, which adds spontaneity or joy to the captured moment; conversely, there may be a sense of reflection by the subject. “I want to share and know more about the cultural or social conditions I encounter; I strive, through my selection of venues and scenes, to intrigue and provoke investigation. In some of the images there is an ambiguity of event or action, which elicits curiosity. I believe questions are often just as important as answers. “The angle at which the scene is captured is important to me. I often strive for viewpoints that often appear in my dreaming state: floating somewhat above, sometimes even at a great distance, but still connected to the moment.”

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