Al Wertheimer was an up-and-coming photographer who very early saw something special in Elvis Presley — the “Hillbilly Cat” from Mississippi. He traveled with him during 1956, capturing wonderful and intimate moments as Elvis hovered on the cusp of celebrity. The Wertheimer collection represents the only candid photos of Elvis—taken before the Colonel restricted access to the young singer. From backstage to onstage, from piano benches to Harleys, from his personal life on-the-the road to the public uproar of screaming fans, Wertheimer captures the essence of early Elvis.
Wertheimer did not use flash bulbs when he photographed Elvis, enabling him to catch candid, un-posed moments with his two small 35 mm Nikon S-2 Rangefinder cameras. Wertheimer used very slow shutter speeds to get enough light for a good exposure. This technique is called using “available light,” but Wertheimer pushed it to extremes and coined the phrase “using available darkness.” According to Wertheimer, “The darker your environment, the more people let it all hang out.”