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