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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Elvis At 21

Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer

Previous exhibition from 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
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.

15 portraits

1With former high school sweetheart, July 4, 1956. 2A little girl breaks, July 1, 1956. 3Alone, outside The Warwick Hotel, New York City. March, 17, 1956. 4Backstage, The Mosque, Richmond, June 30, 1956. 5Elvis at Stage Door, CBS Studio 50, New York City.
March 17, 1956
. 6Fan frenzy, July 1, 1956. All by Alfred Wertheimer .

Related information

Elvis at 21 learning resource

Learning resource archive

This resource has connections with the Australian Curriculum and is designed primarily for year 10 teachers of English, history, music and visual arts.

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

Elvis at 21 media information

25 October 2013

Archived media releases 2013

Press releases and images downloads for media.

Sir Frank Packer KBE, 1956 Judy Cassab
Sir Frank Packer KBE, 1956 Judy Cassab
Sir Frank Packer KBE, 1956 Judy Cassab
Sir Frank Packer KBE, 1956 Judy Cassab

Judy Cassab

The artist's diary

Previous exhibition, 2013

The artist's diary profiles six decades of Cassab's work, from the early portrait commissions of the 1950s to later paintings that have helped confirm her eminent place in the canon of Australian portraiture.

Our only concern is the void, 2013 video: 12 minutes
Our only concern is the void, 2013 video: 12 minutes
Our only concern is the void, 2013 video: 12 minutes
Our only concern is the void, 2013 video: 12 minutes

Macquarie Digital Portraiture Award 2013

Previous exhibition, 2013

The Macquarie Digital Portraiture Award is an annual event intended to extend traditional notions of portraiture and reflects the National Portrait Gallery's commitment to fostering emerging artists with an interest in contemporary technology.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.