1956 was pivotal year in America in many ways. Thrusting us into 1956 and beyond were the thrusting hips of Elvis Presley, which would change the music as well as the cultural scene in America as well as the rest of the world.
They are published in a book, “Elvis 1956,” which was published to mark the occasion of the Smithsonian’s Elvis at 21 exhibition. You can view where the tour is playing and where it will be next here.
–By Sad Man’s Tongue: Rockabilly Bar & Bistro – Prague
“Art is about choices,” says music critic Peter Guralnick, one of the exhibition’s contributers. A photographer chooses to be engaged by a subject and that subject chooses to let his guard down. Al Wertheimer chose to capture 21-year-old Elvis Presley on the threshold of super stardom not because he was a fan, but because he was a student of human nature, because he was curious and because, like Elvis, he could be swept up by the purity of experience. That unscripted eloquence resulted in photographs so unique that they remind us why Elvis matters.
What is so remarkable about Wertheimer’s documentary portraits of Elvis is how fresh and contemporary the pictures still seem, utterly unlike any other portraits of this endlessly scrutinized figure.
Elvis at 21, Photogaphs by Alfred Wertheimer reveals images without a hint of irony or visual comment. We are scarcely aware of the photographer, though he is always present. We are there before Elvis became an icon and constant security created walls between him and his fans.
Forty large-format Wertheimer photographs chronicle Elvis’s dazzling emergence in a pivotal year, 1956. Created by master printer David Adamson, these 36 x 48” pigment prints radiate a richness and depth that make Elvis’s road to fame palpable. With cinematic luminosity, the Wertheimer photographs document a remarkable time when Elvis could sit alone at a drugstore lunch counter.
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™.
Source and Further Reading: Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service