THE PHOTOGRAPHER HAS LEFT THE BUILDING (Alfred Wertheimer, R.I.P.)

Alfred Wertheimer, the only photographer given full access to Elvis Presley during his rise to stardom (or any other time), and whose images form much of that seminal event’s iconography, has passed away at age 84.

The images he shot while traveling with Elvis for several heady months in 1956–months when Presley crossed more cultural barriers and traveled further and faster than anyone before or since–have been reproduced many times, many ways. I had the privilege of seeing a traveling show devoted to those images when it stopped at the inimitable Pink Palace in Memphis in 2012. No internet grab or coffee table book can capture the full force of those photographs, blown up life-size, hanging on walls in a town as ghost-haunted as the one that produced Elvis (and that Elvis left in his wake).

But my two favorites are instructive, in any form.

For anyone who really believes that the “Elvis Moment” was restricted to the responses of teen-aged white girls (however vital a component those were)…

ELVISWERT1

And for anyone who believes walking the path Elvis walked means you’ll only be lonely “in the middle of a crowd”….

ELVISWERT2

Even if you’re history’s greatest performance artist…