Walls/Spaces – Photography by John D. Elliott (2020 Edition)

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A Photographic Series by JOHN ELLIOTT


Walls/Spaces a Photographic Series By John D. Elliott

In dedication to my mother, who allowed me the freedom to explore; and Rebecca, my Rock of Gibraltar and muse.

First Edition: June, 2016 Jeddah, Saudi Arabia


hile wandering around Oaxaca, Mexico in the early ‘80s I became aware of the subtle but perceptible emotions that the faded adobe and stucco walls exuded. Thus began the “Walls/Spaces” series. Not only did these walls

provide a cultural and geographical referent, but they often offered a metaphor that transcended their place and time. I immediately liked the sense of timelessness I discovered and believe it is this which allows these scenes to become more universal. Ancient peoples and present indigenous societies have always believed that life is everywhere––even in inanimate objects. This series vivifies that timeless mindset. I find it both challenging and rewarding to draw inspiration from objects and areas taken for granted by passers-by. And if walls and outdoor spaces are often “open” in the sense of public exhibition, they are also open for interpretation. The series is divided into two parts: Metonymy and Milieu. The former is a figure of speech that uses the name of an object or concept in place of another relationship. In the latter part, the documentary aspects of the milieu in the photos override the metonymy. A wall is an obstruction; or a bridge; or a window. Upon her face are etched the marks of man: quotidian efforts, birth, war, decay. The family of walls includes sister fence, brother stone and the sundry open and confined spaces. I enjoy looking at and presenting the myriad permutations of this theme. Sometimes a metaphor springs to mind, or simply a reflection of conditions– of mine, time and the anonymous Others. The walls and spaces I ultimately choose to interpret are the ones that speak to me.


1. Metonymy


Riga, Latvia 1


Paris, France 2


Locice, Poland 3


Locice, Poland 4


Fort Wood, New York, USA 5


Riga, Latvia 6


Pompeii, Italy 7


Riga, Latvia 8


Oberlin, Ohio, USA 9


Mt. Saint Michel, France 10


Caracas, Venezuela 11


Petra, Jordan 12


Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 13


Cairo, Egypt 14

Portal to Love

Cairo, Egypt 15

Energy Dump

Cairo, Egypt 16


Cairo, Egypt 17


Aswan, Egypt 18


Cairo, Egypt 19

The Final Lesson (I stood on the days...Once the people...Graves cried...Punishment of God) 20

Edfu, Egypt


Berlin, Germany 21


Agra, India 22


Aswan, Egypt 23


Dacula, Georgia 24


Berlin, Germany 25


Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 26


Delhi, India 27


Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 28


2nd Edition 2016

Souq Booth at Prayer Time

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 30


Kyoto, Japan 31

Broken Dreams

Aswan, Egypt 32

Expectant Eatery

Aswan, Egypt 33

Wall with Cat and Trash Bin

Ouro Preto, Brazil 34

Pink Wall with Stubborn Crate

Cairo, Egypt 35

Goat Space with Staring Man

Haridwar, India 36

Guarded Residence

Boston, Massachusets, USA 37

The Invitation

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 38

The Invitation II

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 39

Behind These Doors

Beijing, China 40

Lantern Space

Beijing, China 41

Blues Wall

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 42

Locks Wall with PVC Sausages

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 43

Womens’ Wall

Usina de Massauaçu, Pernambuco, Brazil 44

Elderly Woman’s Walk

Shi du, China 45

Burnt Wall with Fresh Bread

Aswan, Egypt 46

Wall with Sandwich and Hungry Cat

Cairo, Egypt) 47

Seller’s Space

Aswan, Egypt 48

Seller’s Space II

Haridwar, India 49

Throne of Music

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 50

Occupied Wall with Viviana

Castello, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 51

Barber’s Wall

Agra, India 52

Barber’s Space

Arusha, Tanzania 53

Broken Wall with Girl and Goat

Shi Du, China 54

Painted House Near Mount Kilimanjaro

Moshi, Tanzania 55

Closed Restaurant

Fujiyoshida, Japan 56

Faux Faรงade with Art

Gloria, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 57

Favella Wall with Joyful Children

Dona Marta, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 58

Seller’s Space with Abandoned Sack

Arusha, Tanzania 59

Street Hawker’s Wall

Amman, Jordan 60

Goat Wall with Walking Woman

Arusha, Tanzania 61

Dog Wall

Oaxaca, Mexico 62

Wall with Piglets

Teotitlรกn, Mexico 63

Liberated Elephant

Haridwar, India 64

Donkey Wall

Uçhisar, NevΩ≈s√ehir, Turkey 65

Artisan Space

Caruaru, Pernambuco, Brazil 66

Avian Space

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 67

Childrens’ Wall

Bauska, Latvia 68

Beach Wall with Boys

Recreio, RJ, Brazil 69

Hot Potato Wall with Pet

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 70


Quemada Grande, Pernambuco, Brazil 71

Baleeira Community

Campos dos Goyzacates, Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil 72

Africa-Shaped Hole Wall

Arusha, Tanzania 73

Anti-Envy Hands Wall

Cairo, Egypt 74

Hawker’s Space

Lapa, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil 75

Door of Sticks

Arusha, Tanzania 76

Fish Market Storage

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 77

Suspended Board with Sewing Machine

Arusha, Tanzania 78

Fisherman’s Store

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 79

Outside The Prayers

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 80

Yemeni Souq Space

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 81

Property For Sale with Running Cat and Peeking Cat 82


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 the Ohio University School of Art, 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 U.S. Army photographer and five years as a corporate communications manager. In 1994, he and three partners founded Millennium Communications, Inc., an advertising and video production agency in the Atlanta, Georgia area, where he was Creative Director. 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. Images in the Walls/Spaces series debuted at Backdrop Photography Gallery in Atlanta in 1996. 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. John currently resides in the Washington, DC area with his wife, two daughters, and four cats.

About The Images John uses both full-frame digital(Nikon) and 6 x 4.5cm (Mamiya) film camera formats. For exhibitions, selected images from the series have been Glicee printed on archival paper. New photographs are periodically posted on a dedicated Web site:




en 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.

This book became the genesis of one 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 protoscientist 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 pho-

“Nopales Resisting Oppression (1980, Mitla, Mexico)” was one of the first images in the Walls/Spaces series. 85

tography 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. 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. The following year, however, my travels were markedly different, in terms

of culture and destination. During my sophomore 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 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. 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 Cartier-Bresson. 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.) When I joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 2010, it was a hugely rewarding opportunity to spend two years in Brazil and then iwo more in Saudi Arabia, where I could indulge in unhurried photographic exploration. With my wife Rebecca––an excellent photographer in her own right––often by my side, I seek to reach out to more foreign hands, learn newphrases and discover new friends at different destinations.

“Cows at Dawn (1975, Santa Barbara, Honduras)”


$39. 25% of all sales will be donated to AidWEST Humanitarian Missions

www.aidwest.org © 2016 John Elliott • All Rights Reserved • Representative Contact: a11000@aol.com


John Elliott on “Walls/Spaces” Ancient peoples and present indigenous societies have always believed that life is everywhere, even in inanimate objects. This series vivifies that timeless mindset. I find it to be both challenging and rewarding to draw inspiration from objects and areas taken for granted by passers-by. Walls and outdoor or working spaces are often “open” in the sense of public exhibition; they are also open for interpretation. A wall is an obstruction; or a bridge; or a window. Upon her face are etched the marks of man: quotidian efforts, birth, war, decay. The family of walls includes sister fence, brother stone and the sundry open and confined spaces. I enjoy looking at and presenting the myriad permutations of this theme. Sometimes a metaphor springs to mind, or simply a reflection of conditions– of mine, time and the anonymous Others. The walls and spaces I ultimately choose to interpret are the ones that speak to me.