Elvis Presley

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Copyright © 2002-2022 ElvisBooks
All rights reserved

Author:
Alfred Wertheimer



Alfred Wertheimer

< photo of Alfred Wertheimer >

Alfred Wertheimer in 2008, holding one of his most famous shots, a photo of Elvis kissing a woman (Barbara Gray) backstage.
(Photo source: New York Times ... )

Alfred Wertheimer (1929-2014) is best known as the photographer who captured Elvis Presley on the precipice of life-changing fame in a series of remarkably intimate black-and-white photos in 1956.

Wertheimer, a German émigré, was only 26 years old when he received the fateful call, in 1956, from an RCA publicist asking whether he would photograph an up-and-coming singer from Memphis called Elvis. Wertheimer, a Cooper Union School of the Arts graduate who served two years in the U.S. Army, would later tell Vanity Fair's Bob Colacello (source 1) that his response to this request was, "Elvis who?"

The Brooklyn-raised photojournalist went on to take 3,800 photographs of the soon-to-be rock sensation over the course of seven days in March, June, and July of that year. Shadowing Presley fly-on-the-wall-style, Wertheimer captured candid moments of Elvis shaving, staring out a train window deep in thought, singing in the recording studio, sitting shirtless in his parents' house, and answering the phone in his underwear. More specific, photos were taken on:
  17 March 1956, CBS Studio 50, New York (Dorsey Show),
  29 June 1956, Manhattan Loft Studio, New York,
  1 July 1956, NBC Hudson Theater, New York (Steve Allen Show),
  2 July 1956, RCA Victor Studios, New York (Recording session for Hound Dog, Don't Be Cruel a.o.),
  3 July 1956, on the train from New York to Memphis,
  4 July 1956, Audubon Drive, Memphis and Russwood Baseball Park, Memphis, and
  22 August 1958, Brooklyn Army Terminal

The photos not only captured Presley at his most beautiful and most pure-before the post-fame incarnations of "fat Elvis" and "B-movie Elvis" would set in - but, in the backdrop, wholesome 1950s America, right before Presley's groin-thrusting synthesis of rhythm, blues, gospel, and country would electrify it.

After his collaboration with Elvis, Wertheimer worked as a cinematographer for Britain's Granada Television, a cameraman for Michael Wadleigh's Woodstock documentary, and a rental agent for Steenbeck film-editing machines before returning focus to his Elvis photos through a series of books (most of them with his collobarator and publisher Chris Murray, but also in co-operation with Sean Shaver and Ger Rijff a.o.) and gallery exhibits.

(the above text was partly adapted from source 3).

Sources:
1 - Vanity Fair ... (article by Bob Colacellom, December 2009)
2 - EIN Spotlight on Alfred Wertheimer ... (adapted by EIN from the article by Bob Colacellom, 2011)
3 - Vanity Fair ... (article by Julie Miller, October 21, 2014)
4 - New York Times ... (article by William Yardley, October 24, 2014)
5 - Echoes of the Past ... (by Bob Pakes, September 2015)


Text updated: 2 April 2022

References:

1979 - Elvis '56: In The Beginning. An Intimate Eyewitness Photo-journal (USA release)

1980 - Elvis '56: In The Beginning. An Intimate Eyewitness Photo-journal (UK release)
1984 - Our Memories of Elvis (by Sean Shaver, photographs by Wertheimer)

1993 - Elvis '56: Der Beginn. Ein Intimes Phototagebuch (German release of the 1979 edition)
1994 - Elvis '56: In The Beginning. An Intimate Eyewitness Photo-journal (UK re-release of the 1979 edition)
1994 - Elvis '56: In The Beginning. An Intimate Eyewitness Photo-journal (UK re-release of the 1979 edition, same ISBN as Pimlico edition, but with different cover)
1995 - Songs Of Innocence (by Ger Rijff and Jan van Gestel, photographs by Wertheimer)

2001 - The Hottest Thing That's Cool (by Ger Rijff, photographs by Wertheimer)
2006 - Elvis at 21: From New York To Memphis (USA release)
2006 - Elvis mit 21: Von New York Nach Memphis (German release of Elvis at 21)
2006 - Elvis at 21: From New York To Memphis (USA release, Limited Edition) (Publisher info ... )
2007 - Elvis '56: In The Beginning. An Intimate Eyewitness Photo-journal (UK re-release of the 1979 edition.)
2007 - Elvis Presley 21 Years Old (Japanese release of Elvis at 21)
2007 - Elvis: A King In The Making (UK release of Elvis at 21)
2007 - Elvis: A King In The Making (Australian release of Elvis at 21)
2007 - New York RCA Studio 1: The Complete Sessions (by Joseph Pirzada, photographs by Wertheimer)
2008 - Elvis, Le King en Devenir (French release of A King in the Making / Elvis at 21)
2009 - Elvis 1956 (published on the occasion of the Smithsonian exhibition Elvis at 21)

2010 - Elvis: The Early Years (includes 3 CDs)
2012 - Elvis: Les Premieres Annees (French release of the 2010 edition)
2012 - Elvis (One on One)
2013 - Elvis and The Birth of Rock and Roll (Art Edition A, No. 1-125)
2013 - Elvis and The Birth of Rock and Roll (Art Edition B, No. 126-250)
2013 - Elvis and The Birth of Rock and Roll (Limited Collector's Edition, No. 251-1956)
2013 - Elvis 1956 (re-release of the 2009 edition)
2015 - Elvis and The Birth of Rock and Roll (Standard Edition)
2017 - Elvis (One on One) (re-release of the 2012 edition)
2017 - A King in The Making (forword by Peter Guralnick, introduction by Chris Murray) (re-release of the 2007 edition)

Announced:

2022 - Elvis and The Birth of Rock and Roll (re-issue)


Page updated: Friday, 01 April 2022