Photographer Alfred Wertheimer followed Elvis around with a camera before the King of Rock'n'Roll became famous and one of the most iconic figures in the history of music. After receiving an assignment from Anne Fulchino at RCA Records in 1956, Wertheimer began a journey with Elvis that took place in trains, in recording studios, on the stages of television shows, and on the streets.
When Fulchino called Wertheimer up for the job, picking him out of six photographs, he said, "Elvis who?" She replied, "Elvis Presley. We just signed him from Sun Records about two months ago, and I have nothing in my file. And I need some good pictures for back of album jackets and press..." The rest is history. In the March 2013 Taschen release of Alfred Wertheimer. Elvis and the Birth of Rock and Roll, Alfred has compiled a selection of the 3,000+ images he took of Elvis, many of which show him at his most candid, vulnerable, and meditative moments.
In this Portfolio Review, Alfred talks the stories behind 10 individual images from the book. One of them marks the last time he saw Elvis. Alfred says,
"The last time I saw him was on September 22, 1958, the day he left from the Brooklyn Port of Embarkation to go to Germany. Then I didn’t get a call for an Elvis Presley photograph for 19 years, when I’m going about my business trying to become a motion picture director...For 19 years, I didn’t get a phone call for my Elvis photos. They were basically in a file in my basement, because I never throw anything out.
So I get this call from TIME magazine in 1977, and they said, ‘C’mon up here right away, and bring all your Elvis photographs with you.’ I said, ‘Well, what’s up? What’s the hurry?’ They said, ‘Elvis Presley died today.’ So that was a bit of a shocker. But there were 19 years of absolutely nothing Elvis until the day he died. And then in the last 35 years or so, the phone hasn’t stopped ringing, at least once a week. So it’s a shame that the performer has to die before the world will fully recognize him, but that’s the way it is."
It's a sad truth, but thankfully all the stories and images have been put together so beautifully. Buy Taschen's Alfred Wertheimer. Elvis and the Birth of Rock and Roll here, and look forward to Elvis at Stax: Deluxe Edition, which will be released on August 6, 2013.
Portfolio Review: Alfred Wertheimer Shares Photographs of Elvis From His New Book
(All images copyright 2013 Alfred Wertheimer/Courtesy TASCHEN)