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St. John's Confidential File

Thom Elliott: Photographer Lives Through Images
Posted by MICHAEL ST. JOHN on Jun 3, 2012 - 1:22:46 PM

HOLLYWOOD—HELLO AMERICA! During my early years in Hollywood, I was fortunate enough to be around some exciting, creative artists who eventually became recognized as entertainment royalty.  Photographer, THOM ELLIOTT was one of those guys who was destined to make his mark on the industry.  As a matter of fact,  it didn't take long for the stars to realize they could depend on and trust Thom in every possible way.  It was quite a treat to talk with Thom again and reflect on his Hollywood years.



Q: Did the world seem somewhat confusing to you growing up? And did you have any idea what role you might play to fit in? 

A: It was confusing in that my parents seemed to be saying to me that I could understand the world and understand it, only if I learned how to read and write and most important follow my passion. They did not care if what I did, even if I only became the garbage man. “Be the best garbage man”. I had no idea what I would be doing  .. my role was just to do it and don’t let anyone tell you what this role was to be.  And yet, all of the authority figures were telling me what I should and should not do. I could not wait to get out on my own.

Q: Who were some of the people occupying the headlines who impressed you the most and why, during those early years?


A: Marlon Brando for his acting range: From a motorcycle gang member to Mark Anthony as a Shakespearean character

Q: Do you remember how you felt the first time you picked up a camera?  Was it an emotional connection?

A: It was the first time I saw or heard Flamenco music and watched the dancing. Seeing a photo of this art, made me decide to pursue photography as a life choice. I went back twice to the restaurant where Flamenco music and dancing were being performed. The first night to celebrate the anniversary of my mom to Doug, (my step dad) and the second night to take pictures.


Q: When you were old enough to leave home, what did you expect to find or experience?  Did the world seem even more complicated or mysterious?

A: I expected to find and experience peace and tranquility. The world seemed, not more complicated or mysterious, but solvable.


Q: What was your first arrival in Hollywood like?  Was it something you had planned to do because of your dream of becoming a photographer?

A: My first arrival in Hollywood was exciting for my original plan was to go to The Pasadena Playhouse to study to become a stage actor while Chris went to LACC to study to become a movie actor. Becoming a photographer did not even enter my mind until I returned from a 30 holiday touring various countries in Europe. The original plan was for each of us to study at the same time and share what we were learning. I ended up not going to school, because I got homesick and went back home. He continued to go to LACC while pumping gas to earn money to support himself. LACC was free for him for he was a resident of Los Angeles.



When I went back home I joined the US Air Force Security Service, spending 4 years in Europe (stationed in Germany) and the last six months in Tacoma, Washington. Upon discharge I went down to Hollywood and studied Advertising Photography at The Art Center College of Design, then located on West 3rd Street a residential section of Los Angeles.


Q: How difficult was it to be recognized as a part of the motion picture and television community, especially in your area of expertise? 


A: Recognition came much later. Not because it was difficult but because I kept changing jobs and moving around a lot. LA to Miami, to LA, to New York, and  back to Hollywood. I kept working in the area of  Photography as an assistant to other photographers or a freelancer on my own, with small studios in Hollywood, Miami, and New York.


Q: Who were some of the celebrities or stars at that time who impressed you most as good, caring human beings and why?


A: Well, as you know our mutual friend Chris Robinson is at the top of the list and Byron Griffith, grandson of D.W. Griffith who produced silent film hit "Birth of a Nation." i


Q: Living and working in Hollywood, especially, during the late 50s and early 60s, did the constant challenge to survive force you to discover who you really are as a human being? 


A:  I guess so. I didn't give it much thought. I really tried to live each moment trying not to do harm or damage..


Q: Are you satisfied today with the person you turned out to be? If so, who exactly is this person?


A: I am satisfied I am on a path that supports me financially and spiritually. I am the person that hopefully does no harm or damage to the environment and to other human beings on this small blue marble. The universe really doesn’t care one bit, in fact . . . . doesn’t give a shit. Us humans give meaning and direction and other humans get in the way or give support. The universe . . . . Just . . . IS. I guess that is what is meant by "free will." We can do anything we want and we either suffer or enjoy the out come.




Cliffside Malibu




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