Elvis At 21

Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer

Saturday 7 December 2013 until Monday 10 March 2014

Elvis at 21 is a photographic exhibition capturing Elvis’ rise to fame in the year 1956, before security and money built walls between him and his fans.

On train from New York to Memphis, July 4, 1956 by Alfred Wertheimer
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On train from New York to Memphis, July 4, 1956 by Alfred Wertheimer

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 candid look at Elvis before he exploded onto the scene and became one of the most exciting performers of his time.

The 56 black and white digital pigment prints, produced by certified Tamarind master printer David Adamson, give Wertheimer’s unique visual record a cinematic power that makes Elvis’ road to fame palpable.

'Henri Cartier-Bresson was known for his decisive moments, that one instant when everything falls into place. But I wanted to be known for the moment before or after the decisive moment…'

Alfred Wertheimer Elvis a King in the Making, p 21.

Elvis at 21, Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer was developed collaboratively by the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, and Govinda Gallery, and is sponsored by HISTORY.