In 1956, twenty-six-year-old Alfred Wertheimer was asked by RCA Records to photograph a rising twenty-one-year-old star named Elvis Presley. Upon receiving the assignment, Wertheimer responded “Elvis who?”
“I had never heard the name Elvis Presley in my life, at that time,” says Wertheimer. “He was basically a well-known regional singer in the South and now he was breaking in on the national scene.”
"Elvis at 21: Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer" showcases fifty-six photographs taken during Wertheimer’s short time with Elvis, documenting a young singer on the cusp of superstardom. The exhibition offers an intimate look at the public and private life of one of the world's most famous figures—from the diners to the train stops—in 1956. “Elvis at 21” is on view at the National Portrait Gallery through January 23, 2011.
Alfred Wertheimer was interviewed by Warren Perry, co-curator of “Elvis at 21.” The exhibition is on tour; for dates and locations, visit the tour schedule.