Soon after graduating from Cooper Union's School of Art in New York City and completing his twoyear
service as a draftee in the U.S. Army, Alfred Wertheimer began his career as a photojournalist in
1955, publishing his work in such magazines as Life and Paris Match. When RCA Victor hired the young
freelancer to photograph the studio's newest recording artist in 1956, Wertheimer turned the short
assignment into a unique opportunity to document Elvis Presley. Shooting intermittently between
March 17 and July 4th of that year, he gathered what he now calls "The Wertheimer Collection" of Elvis
photographs. With the sensibility of a reporter and the imagination of a visual artist, Wertheimer observed
his subject and environment as no photographer had done before or after.
Alfred Wertheimer's photographs of Elvis Presley are a national treasure. They are a unique
visual record of the most exciting and influential performer of our time. Taken in 1956, Wertheimer's
photographs document Elvis Presley at the quintessential moment of his explosive appearance onto the
cultural landscape. After these photos were taken, no photographer ever again had the access to Elvis that
Wertheimer enjoyed. Apart from Elvis's own recordings from this period, Wertheimer's photographs are
the most compelling vintage document of Elvis in 1956.
Sixty-five of Wertheimer's photographs were featured in a comprehensive exhibition at the Fondation
Cartier for Contemporary Art in Paris entitled Rock 'n' Roll 39-69 and published in a major monograph, Elvis
at 21: New York to Memphis (2006). They are also featured in the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition
Service tour Elvis at 21, beginning in December 2009, for which this book serves as a catalog.
Chris Murray is the founder and director of Govinda Gallery in Washington, D.C. Since 1975, Murray
has organized over 200 exhibitions of many of the leading artists of our time, including Andy Warhol
in the 1970s and photographer Annie Leibovitz's first exhibition in 1984. Since that time, Govinda has
established itself as one of the most innovative contemporary galleries in the United States. Murray has
been the author or editor of over a dozen books and catalogs including Soul Rebel: An Intimate Portrait of Bob
Marley (2009), John and Yoko: A New York Love Story (2008), and Elvis at 21: New York to Memphis (2006).
E. WARREN PERRY, JR.
A native of Memphis, Tennessee, E. Warren Perry, Jr. is a writer and researcher for the Smithsonian
National Portrait Gallery. He holds graduate degrees in medieval literature and creative writing from the
University of Memphis and in drama from the Catholic University of America. Warren's most recently
published work is his play The Sitters which can be found in the anthology The Best of the Strawberry One Acts,
Volume IV (2007).
Amy Henderson has been a cultural historian at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery since 1975,
specializing in 20th and 21st century music, movie, and theater history, and in the history of American
celebrity culture. Her books and exhibitions include On the Air: Pioneers of American Broadcasting (1988); Red,
Hot & Blue: A Smithsonian Salute to the American Musical (1996; the SITES traveling version of this exhibition
went to 28 venues); Exhibiting Dilemmas: Issues of Representation at the Smithsonian (1997); the six-part PBS
American Masters series Broadway (2005); "The Changing Face of Celebrity Culture" (2005); KATE:
A Centennial Celebration (2007-08); and Elvis at 21 (SITES exhibition, 2009- ).