May 20, 2013
“Elvis at 21: Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer,” a new Smithsonian traveling exhibition, presents 56 striking images and will open at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History on Saturday, May 25, 2013. Developed collaboratively by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and the Govinda Gallery, “Elvis at 21” will be on view at Fort Worth Museum of Science and History through September 2, 2013. Alfred Wertheimer will be available for interviews at the museum (upon request) on Thursday, May 23 - Friday, May 24.
To compliment the new exhibition, Graceland Archives will also included rare artifacts related to Elvis in Texas. Those on display from the Graceland Archives include his Army fatigues hat worn in Fort Hood, TX and a Rolex given to him in 1970 while performing in Houston, TX. See sneak peek of artifacts on Elvis' Instragram!
Freelance photojournalist Alfred Wertheimer was hired by RCA Victor in 1956 to shoot promotional images of a recently signed 21-year-old recording artist - Elvis Presley. Wertheimer’s instincts to “tag along” with the artist after the assignment and the resulting images provide us today with a look at Elvis before he exploded onto the scene and became one of the most exciting performers of his time.
Wertheimer had unparalleled access and documented Elvis on the road, backstage, in concert, in the recording studio and at home in Memphis, Tenn. “Colonel” Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager, restricted contact just a short time later. The photographs document a remarkable time when Elvis could sit alone at a drugstore lunch counter.
“Henri Cartier-Bresson was known for photographing the decisive moment, that moment when everything falls into place,” said Wertheimer. “But I was more interested in the moments just before or just after the decisive moment.”
Wertheimer was up close to capture a flirtatious encounter with a young woman backstage in Richmond, Va. He was in the New York City recording studio on the historic day Elvis recorded “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Hound Dog.” Both songs hit No. 1 on the charts, the first and only time a single record would achieve this distinction.
Wertheimer also joined Elvis after the recording session as he traveled home to Memphis by train. One image shows Elvis as just part of the crowd surrounding a lunch vendor on a train platform during a brief stop on the 27-hour trip. The anonymity he had during this stop was short-lived; the trip followed a busy few months when Elvis appeared on the television shows “Stage Show,” “The Milton Berle Show” and “The Steve Allen Show.” The photographs of a concert in Russwood Park on his return to Memphis show a young man who now had to have a police escort to get through the crowd of fans between his car and the stadium.
“Elvis at 21” is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalog, titled “Elvis 1956,” available through Welcome Books. For more information, visit WelcomeBooks.com.
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Located in Washington, D.C., the Govinda Gallery exhibits one of the largest collections of music photography in the world. Over 30 years, the gallery has organized more than 200 exhibitions of many of the nation’s leading artists. It has featured Wertheimer’s work in several exhibitions, including his first major one-person exhibition in 1997. Visit online at GovindaGallery.com.
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery tells the stories of America through the individuals who have shaped its culture. Through the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists who speak American history. To learn more about the museum’s collection of nearly 20,000 works ranges from paintings and sculpture to photographs and drawings, visit NPG.si.edu and ReynoldsCenter.org.