You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.

November 16: Photographing Elvis

November 16, 2015

Elvis-04-GQ-6Aug13_Alfred_Wertheimer_bAlfred Wertheimer, who took some 2,500 unposed photographs of Elvis Presley over the course of ten days in 1956, shortly after Elvis had released “Heartbreak Hotel,” was born in Coburg, Germany on this date in 1929. His family emigrated to New York in 1936 to escape the Nazis. Wertheimer was only 26 when he was hired by RCA Victor Records for the photo assignment, which took him to a recording studio in Richmond, Virginia and to Elvis’ home in Memphis, to which he traveled with Elvis by train from New York. “He permitted closeness,” Wertheimer said. “Without that I wouldn’t have gotten my intimate photographs. With Elvis, you could get within three feet.” Wertheimer shot in black and white because the company was unwilling to pay for color, as the executives were uncertain if Elvis would be worth the investment. Wertheimer was also the cameramen who shot the documentary film about the Woodstock Festival of 1969. He died at 84 in 2014. To see some of his photographs of Elvis, look below.

“[W]hen somebody is doing something that is more important in his or her life than having their photograph taken, you’re going to get great pictures.” —Alfred Wertheimer