Danziger Gallery is pleased to present a selection of Alfred Wertheimer’s photographs of the young Elvis Presley in collaboration with MUUS Collection, an archive of 20th century American photography marking major turning points in American culture and history.
Wertheimer's iconic images provide a unique glimpse into the early life and career of Elvis Presley. These candid shots, taken in 1956 (Wertheimer photographed Elvis again in 1958), capture Elvis in unguarded moments as he was on the cusp of superstardom. They show his youth, charisma, and the electrifying energy he brought to the music scene.
In the context of Soﬁa Coppola's new ﬁlm "Priscilla", Elvis is shown as both courtly and manipulative, loving and unfaithful. Wertheimer’s photographs serve as a valuable historical reference as well as a reminder of how young Elvis was both emotionally and in his physical appearance.
Born in Bavaria, Wertheimer emigrated with his family to the U.S. in 1936, when he was six years old. He grew up in Brooklyn, and attended Cooper Union where he developed an interest in photography. In 1956, a friend suggested Wertheimer show his work to Anne Fulchino, the head of public relations at RCA Victor, and in March that year Fulchino asked if he would like to photograph Elvis Presley. “We signed him up last November and I haven’t got any pictures of him in my files,” she said. A week later, she introduced the two young men (both in their twenties) to one another, and let Elvis know that Wertheimer would be taking some pictures of him.
Wertheimer continued to work as a photographer and cinematographer, including being one of the main cameramen on the 1970 documentary "Woodstock". For almost 20 years, however, there was virtually no interest in the photographs he made of Elvis. However, all that changed on August 16, 1977—the day Elvis died.
Alfred Wertheimer’s unfettered access to his subject without handlers or assistants is almost unimaginable today, while the timing of the assignment could not have been more fortuitous. In total, he shot over 3,000 frames of Elvis.
No photographer got this close to Elvis Presley ever again.
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