Elvis in His Sights
Fifty years ago, photographer Alfred Wertheimer captured rare images of the essential Elvis, stripped of the staging and packaging that would soon engulf him

Thursday, October 19, 2006 11:42 AM

THE ELVIS OF THE SEQUINED WHITE SUIT, the Vegas Elvis, would never have existed if there hadn't been the natural Elvis, the kid with the sexy swagger, the bottomless eyes and that angelic countenance riven by a satanic sneer. This was the raw Elvis, the Elvis that formed like a tropical storm over the simmering, steamy South of the 1950s; the true Elvis, a caldron of erotic power and kinetic connection to the roots music that had been suppressed and ignored by mainstream America for far too long.

That Elvis was captured and then pretty much embalmed when Col. Tom Parker, with a notorious dislike for any kind of spontaneity, took over management of Elvis's career, turned the artist into an "act" and controlled all access to and representations of Elvis.

Before that happened, however, a 26-year-old photographer named Alfred Wertheimer traveled with Elvis Presley in 1956 and made the extraordinary photographs on these pages, along with many others that will appear in an exhibition at the Govinda Gallery in Northwest Washington that celebrates the book Elvis at 21: New York to Memphis, edited by Govinda owner Chris Murray and to be published by Insight Editions next month.

The exhibit runs November 10 through December 30.

View the Gallery [Caption text by Alfred Wertheimer adapted from Elvis at 21: New York to Memphis (Insight Editions, 2006); www.govindagallery.com]

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