A jack-of-all-trades, Elliott worked his way to Great Britain as a captain's boy on a steamer, then traveled to South Africa in the late 1880s. He continued his helter-skelter career there until 1900, when he took up photography. Between 1910 and 1938 he produced five major photographic exhibitions that included the work of other photographers as well as his own. Early in his career he practiced in Pretoria and worked briefly as a staff photographer with the Cape Times, but in 1905 he opened a studio in Cape Town and remained there the rest of his life. Elliott was frequently published in South African books, newspapers and magazines as well as in publications outside that country.
Elliott was elected an honorary member of the National Society for the Preservation of Objects of Historic Interest and Natural Beauty in South Africa (1911).
Quotes from others about the person
He also collected images from other photographers so that he could preserve "for future South Africans - records which, when brought together, would form as nearly as possible an unbroken history of the Cape from its earliest days" (A. D. Bensusan, Silver Images).