"Elvis at 21: Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer" opens tomorrow, Saturday, October 23
The National Portrait Gallery's year long tribute to Elvis Presley continues this week with the opening of “Elvis at 21: Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer”, a collection of Alfred Wertheimer's photographs of Elvis from 1956. The exhibition will open on Saturday, October 23, and close on January 23, 2011. Developed collaboratively by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, Govinda Gallery of Georgetown, and the National Portrait Gallery, "Elvis at 21" is sponsored on its national tour by The History Channel.
Al Wertheimer first met Elvis in early 1956 when he was contracted by RCA to photograph the young singer. Wertheimer shot photos of Elvis in New York first, then later, apart from his contract, in Richmond and Memphis. Wertheimer says he spent his time following Elvis, "Tagging along like a little dog. I just kept snapping."
Elvis is shown performing in many of the photos, certainly, but he is also depicted much more intimately in many of the images. Some photos capture him in moments of quiet—both alone and with family members, friends, or girlfriends. Of all the images, perhaps the most talked about is the one Wertheimer calls "The Kiss," (above) in which Elvis and a beautiful young woman are sharing a softly passionate exchange in a stairwell of the Mosque Theatre in Richmond. The identity of the ingénue is unknown.
This body of work is now a national treasure, and serves to document the early moments of the Elvis phenomenon. Wertheimer's photos, according to Chris Murray of Govinda, "are a one of a kind look at the greatest American entertainer of all time."
—Warren Perry, Catalog of American Portraits, National Portrait Gallery
"Starburst" / Portrait of Elvis Presley by Alfred Wertheimer / © Alfred Wertheimer. All rights reserved.
"The Kiss" / Portrait of Elvis Presley by Alfred Wertheimer / © Alfred Wertheimer. All rights reserved.