Famous Elvis photographer Al Wertheimer seems to show up in my writings several times every year. Just last week, I wrote about him twice while working on an edition of Elvis…The Magazine celebrating the 20th anniversary of its publishing. My contribution for this special issue will be “20 Years – 20 Favorites.” I got to choose my favorite article for each year and to write a couple of paragraphs about each one.
For 2002, I chose something in the 25th Anniversary (of Elvis’ passing) Edition. It wasn’t a real article, rather a four-page picture spread of six photos Al Wertheimer took of Elvis back in 1956. In an ironic twist, it made my select list because those four-pages were originally supposed to be mine. I had a lengthy article already approved and submitted with art-work to the graphic designer for lay-out. Then, a week before the magazine went to the printer, Editor Darwin Lamm acquired six new Al Wertheimer pictures. Of course, he wanted to get them into the issue, but he needed a lot of space so the photos could be presented large size. Guess whose article got cut? It killed me not to be in the biggest and best issue in the magazine’s history.
I mentioned Al Wertheimer again in the pick for 2006. This time I gave myself some kudos for the eight-page spread I did on Al in the 29th Anniversary Edition. He gave me a lot of help on this one. He accommodated me for 5-1/2 hours of phone interviews and supplied eight photos to illustrate my text. He told me numerous anecdotes that had never appeared before in any magazine. I think it’s the best article I have ever written.
Now, I can write agout Al Wertheimer again, thanks to a two-page letter he sent me, full of news. Things are going very well for him these days, and the places he went with his Elvis photos in 2007 are most impressive. It started in May, when he had a one-man show at the Woulter Gallery in Amsterdam, Holland.
In June and July he participated in a photo show in Paris called The History of Rock and Roll. Al had a whole room to himself, which included fifty 16” x 20” exhibition quality prints. These, plus an additional twenty photographs, were sold through the show catalogue and were very popular. However, Al is most proud that the show’s sponsor, the Foundation Cartier Pour L’art Contemporain, made a considerable purchase of Al’s prints for their permanent collection.
In August, Al was one of the key personalities at Elvisfest and the Elvis Insiders Conference at Elvis Week 2007. He was so successful selling autographed copies of his new book, Elvis at 21, New York to Memphis, that he had to have an additional 100 copies flown in to cover demand.
In October, Al spent three weeks in China at two photography festivals. One was in the ancient city of Pingyao, where he was part of five exhibitions curated by Robert Pledge of Contact Press Images. Al's forty-two Elvis prints got a lot of attention from the camera-happy Chinese. They love to photograph each other, and everyone wanted a shot of themselves in front of an Elvis picture.
Next, Al went to the city of Chongzhou where he gave two slide lectures at the University of Taiyuan. He wrote me about an interesting experience he had there. The Chinese people could not pronounce Wertheimer, so they called him Moh Wang. Later, he found out that this translates to King Cat, the name they call Elvis in China. As Al said, “I not only photographed Elvis, I became Elvis, and everyone seemed happy about that.” Especially Al Wertheimer, I’ll bet.
© 2007 Philip R Arnold All Rights reserved www.elvisblog.net