Remembering Al Wertheimer

Elvis lives on today through his music, movies and even photographs of the man they called the king. Earlier this week, famed Elvis photographer Alfred Wertheimer passed away peacefully at his home in New York.

Al was a friend to Elvis fans and the man often times behind the camera never turned down a request for someone to have their picture made with him at any one of the dozens of fan events he has participated in over the years.

Alfred Wertheimer is seen in the reflection of the glass while taking a photo of Elvis on a Memphis-bound train.

Alfred Wertheimer is seen in the reflection of the glass while taking a photo of Elvis on a Memphis-bound train.

His images of the icon, Elvis, are themselves iconic. His style was simple: be a fly on the wall and capture what was happening around him. The shots were rarely posed and only at Elvis’ request.

In March, June and July of 1956, Wertheimer was hired by RCA to capture photos of their rising star named Elvis Presley. From that three month assignment, over 3,800 memorable images came out of the time spent with Elvis. One of the more notable photographs is “The Kiss,” taken in Richmond, Virginia at the Mosque Theatre minutes before a performance in the summer of 1956.

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“The Kiss” from Richmond, Virginia in 1956.

Wherever Elvis went, Al went. Following a record-breaking ratings performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and RCA recording sessions that produced “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” Elvis hopped on a train from New York to Memphis. Wertheimer was there with his camera for ALL 27 hours of the train ride. He later remarked that it was Elvis’ willingness to get close that allowed him to capture some memorable photos, including Elvis as he was listening to the recordings from his recent RCA sessions.

Elvis listens to his recent recordings on the 27 hour train ride to Memphis.

Elvis listens to his recent recordings on the 27-hour train ride to Memphis.

Following that train ride to Memphis, Wertheimer found himself at home with the Presley family on Audubon Drive. It was a casual side of Elvis rarely-seen in photos following his rise to superstardom.

Elvis chats with girlfriend Barbara Hearn while at his new home on Audubon in Memphis.

Elvis chats with girlfriend Barbara Hearn at his new home on Audubon in Memphis.

 

Upon hearing the news of Wertheimer’s passing, Priscilla Presley issued this statement on behalf of the family: “I’m deeply saddened by the death of Alfred Wertheimer. He was a dear friend and special soul. I feel he was a gift for all who knew him, especially Elvis Presley. There has been no other photographer that Elvis ever allowed to get as up close and personal in his life through photos as he did with Alfred.”

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A mantra of sorts around Graceland is “Long live the King,” and Elvis’ legacy certainly lives on because of people like Alfred Wertheimer.


53 Comments

  1. So sad when we lose. Some 1but there be forever in our hearts and thoughts forever more

  2. Rowgena Dailey

    al was a true friend an believed in elvis.may he R.I.P.

  3. im truely saddened to hear about the passing of alfred one in a million rip!!1

  4. Clementine

    Al Wertheimers’ Iconic images of the young Elvis will live with the Ages with Elvis………..long after we are all gone! TCB! Al! RIP

  5. Linda Strickland

    MR Wertheimer was a genius and a very dear man, whom I met a few years ago with two friends at his home in New York City. I treasure those few hours we were lucky enough to spend with him. He left a legacy for all Elvis fans. R.I.P. Al and thank you very much.

  6. carole hagen

    ALWAYS LOVE TO SEE ELVIS PRESLEY—GREW UP WITH HIS MUSIC FROM 9 ON—STILL LOVE HIS MUSIC!

  7. Angela Marie Alexander

    Mr. Wertheimer was a true photographer, at least I’ve heard, and I’m sure his profession will miss him sorely, as well as the viewers of his work.

  8. Susan Bolotte

    For as long as I can remember I have loved ELVIS and I will Love him as long as I can remember.

  9. kevin goodwin

    isn’t it amazing that Elvis went from poverty to such dignity
    so quickly he comes across as a dignified clean cut guy
    with an “aire” about him that was truly captured in these photos
    we can know Elvis a little through these pictures

  10. Mike Freeman

    I met Alfred on the 2009 Elvis Cruise. He really enjoyed talking to everybody he met.

  11. Maryann Stensrude

    I have always loved the photos of Elvis from 1956 (when I was 14 years old, by the way), and treasure them to this day. Thanks to the great candid shots by Alfred Wertheimer, we felt we knew the real Elvis as he was in the very beginning – a very special time for all of us.

  12. Sylvia Pattison

    I was at Graceland when Mr. Wertheimer was signing the photos he took of Elvis. I have the one signed by him of Elvis with the hound dog. Mr. Wertheimer took great photos of Elvis and I was glad to get a signed photo he took. He signed mine ” Sylvia” you ain’t no Hound Dog.. Best wishes A Wertheimer. Dated 8/14/97. I have the photo of him signing it framed and hanging in my living room. Rest in Peace Alfred Wertheimer and now you can be with Elvis in Heaven.

  13. Robert hostler

    Alfred, through his photography, helped us all know Elvis better. He was certainly a big part of the Elvis family.

  14. claude charbonneau

    since 1956 at the age of 16tn i discovered rock music. wich brought to me a new way of seing life with joy and vitalitie and honeste and love of parents and friends .thank s to Elvis and all the people working whit including Mr Alfred Wertheimer ,loved by you the family of Elvis, personnely my sympathie to all concerned.

    Claude still ” Loving You…”

  15. roxie bollinger

    What a neat “job” Mr. Wertheimer had!! And, how lucky we fans are
    that he was there with Elvis; he’s left some amazing pics of the
    most gorgeous man–hopefully, he knows we’re grateful to him.

  16. karen preston

    I am so sorry to hear that Al Wertheimer has passed.He will be forever remembered by all of us Elvis fans.Thanks to him for all the wonderful pictures he took of Elvis and shared with all of Elvis Presleys fans. My condolences goes out to all of his friends and family.

  17. Francine Wiener

    I had the honor of meeting Mr. Wertheimer 3 times. He was a very pleasant and interesting man. As a matter of fact, during Elvis Week 2002, he seemed more interested in my stories of bringing Elvis into my classroom for 32 years, than in autographing his photographs for me. When he learned that I had just retired he took my autograph book and wrote a lovely letter to me. It was a once in a lifetime moment! Now, with his passing, it means even more!!!
    FYI – I taught first grade-over the E in the alphabet was a photo of Elvis. On my desk was a photo of Elvis (they thought he was my husband)-behind my desk was a photo of baby Elvis (they thought he was my son!). In 1997 I met a former student on the vigil line. Now, THAT was amazing!
    Mr. Wertheimer and I had quite a conversation!

  18. Joe Gracie

    After elvis death there was a special convention I went to in NYC. I had the privilege of meeting mr. Wertheimer. He told me about elvis shyness with looking directly into the camera so he looked to the side. He singed several photos of elvis he took during his early career. Treasured memories. Joe

  19. Steve Ryan

    I love the rare photos of The King, I appreciate more rare footage of Elvis, he was certainly, 100% The King of Rock N Roll…Thankyou

  20. Awesome pictures of the greatest performer ever !! Will never in our lifetime can anyone match **

  21. Lillian Dunk

    I did,t know the guy but he did a awesome job on the photo,s of our king and as a fan I all the best to his family he will be miss so much to what I have been reading on him he was a man that stand out above the rest …..

  22. Dolores J Melton

    All Fantastic photos I have a lot of them and my prayers go out to Alfred’s family so sorry for the loss of an excellent photographer <3
    Sincerely
    Dolores J Melton

  23. We will always have the great pics this man took. Thank you

  24. Theela Steel

    I think Alfred Wertheimer was a great photographer. He captured Elvis as the warm and loving person that he was.

  25. Mary Madewell

    I haves loved Elvis for over 50yrs. There will never be another man as handsome and a wonderful soul as him.The wonderful pictures that were taken by Alfred Werteimer are wonderful legacies left for all mankind forever and a day.I love all of it, I wish peace to the family,and thank you for sharing these wonderful memories with us.

  26. irene Mullins

    I was not aware of this man until now but I often wondered where so many wonderful pictures came from. I never get tired of looking at pictures of Elvis, so thankful he captured so many for the world to have

  27. Patricia DE MERLIER

    R.I.P. Alfred, you were a sincere friend of ELVIS and all ELVIS’s fans all around the world.
    Patricia from FRANCE.

  28. sônia maria benites de souza

    Obrigada Alfred por eternizar a imagem de Elvis em suas milhares de fotos. Descanse em paz, você merece.

  29. Joanna Kragt

    An incredible talent, whose epic pics will live on as much as the memory and music of his subject. Long live Alfred Wertheimer — and long live the King.

  30. Ruth Trznadel

    Mr. Wertheimer was a genius with the camera. His “Elvis at 21” photo book is a treasure. He could do more in black & white than most photographers can do in color. He was also a very friendly man. He took the time to visit with me on one of the Elvis cruises. It is a conversation I will always hold dear to my heart.

  31. Donna Bimm

    I am so sorry to hear of the passing Mr.Wertheimer. he took many beautiful pictures of Elvis and his family. God Bless the family.

  32. eunice foreid

    Behind a big man a big photographer!Thanks Al, you were great ´cause you left us the joy to keep on being with Elvis througt your photos and even more for all these years!The young entertainer Elvis, the powerful an handsome intertainer man, and the King prepared to reach His Kingdom!.You were great, Al!Thanks!R.I.P.

  33. John Montgomery

    It would have been great to sit down and talk with “E” face to face. He never forgot where he came from and I think that is one of many things his fans loved about him. Good ole country boy and down to earth.

  34. gladysberry

    I didn’t know him but im sure he was at special person to elvis my sympathy goes out to him

  35. Mary Wyrick

    My Deepest Sympathy to Mr. Wertheimer’s Family.
    He shall live on through his beautiful art.
    I personally loved the Iconic Elvis Editions and am happy that Mr. Wertheimer brought such Beauty, Closeness, Magnificense and Class from this Iconic Star, Elvis to his fans. A work of art and a labor of love!! Thankyou Mr.Alfred Wertheimer. Rest In Peace.

  36. Vicki Tittle

    Great pictures . I have one of the pictures . I am happy to have it .

  37. Steve Williams

    God Bless Al’s family in the time when they all need the true condolences. Our Prayers are with everyone!

  38. Mike Hawkings

    A brilliant photographer great photos in exciting times. My condolences go out to his family

  39. Carolyn Madison

    So sorry to hear of his passing. He took marvelous pictures of Elvis and he will live on through them.

  40. Linda C. Taylor

    To the entire Alfred Wertheimer family I send my Prayers. My cousin who is now 72 was at that concert in June at the Mosque in 1956, I can’t believe she didn’t have a camera with her. It was called the Landmark Theater for awhile and is now called Altria( Phillip Morris) Theater. I walk by there quite often when I’m in the Fan District and think that Elvis was here when he was just 21! I’m 61 myself. Take care and may God Bless you and your family.

    With kind regards,

    Linda C. Taylor

  41. Pirjo Johansson

    Mr Wertheimers photos are all the best. I have several books with Pictures of Elvis (the King) forever.

  42. brenda douglas-fraser

    Sad to hear the news. Superb photos from a superb photographer.Rip

  43. Barbara Gray themysterykiss women.

    will miss Alfred Wertheimer we became good friends over the years.

  44. we hope that the king of rock and roll is still alive and we r very sorry that the man alfred werthemir has passed on

  45. Its good to see that Elvis had people like Alfred in his life

  46. It is god to see that Elvis had someone like Alfred in his life

  47. judi Tabor

    We will always be greatful to Alfred for the many wonderful and up-close photographs he made of Elvis. The images have proven to be a special gift of a very special man, Elvis, given to us by a special friend, Alfred. The images are so personal and in Elvis’ later years we did not have these types of personal photographs. Thank you, Alfred, for being a friend to Elvis and a friend to us, the fans, by sharing your special photographs with the world. Rest in Peace.

  48. Geoff Simpson

    GREAT PHOTO’S OF THE KING BEST THAT WAS EVER PRINTED WELL DONE ALFRED REST IN PEACE

  49. Judy Phillips

    Mr. Wertheimer left us a great treasure of Elvis photos he took of him in the 1950’s. They are my favorites! They truly tell a beautiful story of him as his career and fame were unfolding before our eyes! Mr.Wertheimer captured the true Elvis! I had great respect for Mr. Wertheimer, and he will be deeply missed!
    Judy of NC

  50. Mary Alice Pena-Lopez

    Mr. Wertheimer was a special photographer in a genius, and creative
    manner, capturing a historical Elvis in black and white, and giving
    rise to the magical aura that was Elvis, even in those early stages
    of Elvis legacy, thank you Mr. Wertheimer, missed you in Memphis by
    minutes, you had just left the Pink Palace, but loved the display!
    Mary Alice Pena-Lopez
    San Antonio,TX

  51. Sharon Crissman

    Sorry to the lost of Al, he did take great photos of Elvis, I have one my self that he took. I give my condolence to his family. He was a great photographer.

  52. MERCEDES

    Such a great and sensitive photographer taking pix of the greatest entertainer ever. The King will always be in our musically hearts & ears…

  53. Toni Monar

    His beautiful photographs of Elvis will forever be remembered and
    treasured by everyone who loves and loved Elvis. Without him, we
    would never have had this side of Elvis. Both Mr. Wertheimer and
    Elvis are etched in our hearts now and forever.

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