i would like to take a moment to remember al.
alfred wertheimer died a few days ago. i worked with al for many years, and frankly, i wouldn't have known much about elvis otherwise. i mean i knew the popular songs and obvious facts, like everyone else. al was a great storyteller, and you can certainly see that in his pictures. he would mix his unbelievable recollection of details and his own impression of the events simultaneously in a way that kept you wanting more. i know more about elvis than i care for really, but i also love a good story, so i listened. now, i'm glad i did.
one thing i have to mention though: either i'd give him a perfect print (meaning perfect for al) or no print at all. i could not just casually print for al, i had to make the extra effort, sweat a little, push my abilities in the darkroom. my reward was to know that i gave him the best prints possible from his negatives. i mean, these were images that were also reproduced in books, as postcards, posters etc, so a fiber print from the original neg has to bring something else to the table, a personality if you will. al did not take this lightly, i always liked that about him.
each time he would leave negs to me, i'd have to sign my life away and feel like it too. he knew they were in good hands, but the exchange was never casual. i understand a negative, i understand it because i've held negs like alfred wertheimer's of elvis presley in 1956, just a few strips at a time. that's another reason why i couldn't show al an OK print, it had to be a great print. and then he would say: "now, that one's good. let me see the others". my heart would skip a beat at every print i was showing him that day. al kept me on my toes.
i will miss al.
al taking a picture of my son clayton at the "who shot rock'n roll" exhibit
opening at the brooklyn museum, oct 2009.