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Alfred Wertheimer (1929-2014)

In 1956, freelance photographer Alfred Wertheimer was assigned to photograph a 21-year-old singer who RCA was promoting. It was Elvis Presley, a name the 26-year-old Wertheimer did not recognize when he trekked down to New York City's Studio 50 (later to be named the Ed Sullivan Theater) to photograph Presley's appearance on Tommy Dorsey and Jimmy Dorsey's Stage Show.

At the time, Elvis had already recorded "Heartbreak Hotel" and was beginning to gain some notoriety, but he was nowhere close to becoming a cultural icon. He could still walk the streets unrecognized, and, because of this, Alfred Wertheimer got the opportunity to shoot reams of film of Elvis both on stage and off in the last remaining months before Elvis' life would change forever.

Among his most famous shots was The Kiss, a photo of Elvis nuzzling a woman fan backstage. There were also photographs of him recording “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel”, reading fan mail, eating alone, staring out of a train window, playing a piano in an empty studio and walking by himself on a deserted New York street – these latter depicting a solitude that was later surrendered to fame and mobs of fans.

Wertheimer had humble beginnings. His family fled Hitler’s Germany when he was  six and settled in Brooklyn, where his father was a butcher. As a boy he received his first camera from his brother and became fascinated with photography.


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