“Henri Cartier-Bresson was known for photographing the decisive moment, that moment when everything falls into place,” said Wertheimer. “But I was more interested in the moments just before or just after the decisive moment.”
Imagine a time when Elvis Presley did not need security to keep the drooling, screaming girls off of him. Before Elvis became The King of Rock ‘N Roll. Until September 2nd, The Fort Worth Science and History Museum is hosting a unique exhibit, “Elvis at 21: Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer”, allowing viewers experience to Elvis’s life right before he became The King. We are fortunate to be able to see such an amazing man at such an exciting time in his life thanks to Alfred Wertheimer’s unparalleled access to Elvis and because of the collaborative efforts by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, and Govinda Gallery.
Alfred Wertheimer was assigned to Elvis as a photojournalist to help boost his publicity not knowing that he was about to take some of the most amazing pictures of one of the most famous men in history and wow are they something! Immediately after walking into the exhibit you forget that you are in Fort Worth, Texas. Instead, you feel as if you are living Elvis’s life with Elvis and experiencing all of the fabulous things that he was able to do. The 56 beautiful, black and white pictures of Elvis are accompanied by Wertheimer’s quotes telling stories about how simple yet marvelous Elvis’s life was before he made his big break.
Elvis Presley has sensuality, style, charisma and jaw-dropping looks that made him one of a kind, a theme that is very apparent throughout the exhibit. Whether Elvis was simply just getting out of a cab or attempting to be tamed by a game show host, he sure did have a way with the ladies! You go from raving over a music video of Elvis where you can hear screaming girls obsessing over him to a picture of Elvis reading and shredding an enormous stack of fan mail (because they were for his eyes only!) to an intimate, romantic picture of him with a beautiful girl right before a performance. Needless to say, Elvis’s life was not lacking in excitement in the least.
Having as close to unlimited access as you can get to Elvis’s life, Wertheimer was in a unique position to document Elvis in his down time. Whether Elvis was playing the piano and singing gospel music in a room all by himself or hanging out with his loving family, Wertheimer was there to capture those important moments in Elvis’s life. You are able to see and read about a lot of the things that made Elvis Presley into the sensation that he was about to become.
Arguably one of the most brilliant pictures in the exhibit, the picture that was also Wertheimer’s favorite, is the starburst picture. Wertheimer was not worried about the flashing of cameras at one of Elvis’s performances when he was home because he knew it likely would not ruin any of his pictures. Because of one lucky moment where Wertheimer’s camera lense opened at the same time as a flash was going off in one of the back rows, you are able to see just how many people enthralled by Elvis before he was even that famous!
The “Elvis at 21: Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer” presented by the Fort Worth Science and History Museum and the Smithsonian is definitely not an opportunity to pass up. It is rare that we get to take a look inside the lives of some of our favorite stars, especially Elvis Presley, The King of Rock ‘N Roll. Comment below and tell us about your favorite Elvis picture and story!