Memphis and Elvis are intertwined forever.
I recently headed back to Memphis, Tennessee to continue an ongoing long-term documentary project on rap in Memphis that I started last year for FADER.
This was my third trip back and the timing during the 35th Elvis Week at Graceland was no coincidence. Though, it wasn’t my favorite part of the trip (I will share that soon), I am very fascinated with the Elvis fan phenomenon.
On the anniversary of The King’s death each year, people gather from all over the world to celebrate him. Complete strangers dress like him. Complete strangers try to sing like him. Complete strangers stand in a line for 5-10 hours to pass his grave holding a candle. Complete strangers cry and mourn his death. 75,000 people gathered this year for a man who died 35 years ago. That’s incredible.
This year’s Elvis Week Vigil was special because his widow Priscilla and daughter Lisa Marie made a surprise appearance together for the first time.
New Ohio University visual communications graduate student Aaron Turner, who is from Memphis and was in town, asked if he could come along with me on my first day in town. I was happy to have the company, as well as a local along my side for the day, especially during the hours and hours we waited in line at Graceland. Funny enough, we’re alongside people who traveled hours and some even days to Graceland, and Aaron had never been.
These images are from Graceland at Elvis Week, a bar on Beale Street with hip gyrating tribute artists (note: they are never called ‘Elvis Impersonators’), a hotel on Elvis Presley Boulevard with a guitar shaped pool, a Sony Awards presentation, and a gospel concert with the First Assembly of God, which was Elvis’ church as a boy.
The last image is of Nathan Pittorf, 6, of Buffalo, NY. His first Elvis Week visit was when he was 5 months old. His dad said he was in a playpen in the same area on Elvis Presley Boulevard.