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Poplar Tunes during Elvis Death Week.

Poplar Tunes during Elvis Death Week.

The continuing phenomenon of Elvis Presley fandom has long been a fascination of mine. I can recall the first 45 my mother played from her childhood collection was Presley's "Won't you wear my ring around your neck." I am intrigued by the legitimate groundbreaker that was Elvis, but am also equally drawn to the over-the-top kitsch that he also represents. 

My first visit to Graceland was in 1985, it was everything I had hoped for. I made a promise to myself to return to photograph it on the anniversary of Elvis' death. That occurred on August 16, 1987, the tenth anniversary of his passing. What I had not figured on was how this date coincided with another event that had been getting a lot of attention at the time, the Harmonic Convergence. In short, there was to be a rare alignment of the sun and planets and Adherents in a Mayan prediction felt this signified a time when "signs indicated a "major energy shift" was about to occur, a turning point in Earth's collective karma and dharma, and that this energy was powerful enough to change the global perspective of man from one of conflict to one of co-operation." To paraphrase, folks believed that people of all nations and beliefs would gather in peace, worship the same god, and speak the same language. I had heard all this and mostly ignored it. Imagine my surprise when I am roaming the grounds at Graceland and I see visitors from Japan, Germany, Holland, California, Rhode Island...all waiting in line to honor "The King" and singing Elvis songs together while holding candles. I kinda freaked out. I was overwhelmed with the notion that I had accidentally stumbled right into the middle of this "convergence." I could see the transition from the "Evils of the modern world" to the Elvis of the modern world.  I made very few images that mattered. I choked. 

Years passed, but I resolved to try again. So ten years later, on the 20th anniversary, I set out again. Laden with far too much equipment, my main mission was to make Polaroid Pos/Neg portraits of the variety of folks that gathered on Elvis Presley Blvd. I gave the polaroid positives to my subjects and kept the soft, wet negatives with me in a fixing solution for the whole day. I took some other images of Elvis impersonators. I ended the trip the next day with a visit to Gracelandtoo, a father and son museum in Holly Springs, Mississippi, dedicated entirely to Elvis. These are the images that resulted.

Poolside shrine. Graceland. Memphis TN 1987

Poolside shrine. Graceland. Memphis TN 1987

Dutch Elvis fan. "Rocking' Rebel" combs his pompadour. Elvis Death day, 1987

Dutch Elvis fan. "Rocking' Rebel" combs his pompadour. Elvis Death day, 1987

Dutch fan at gates of Graceland.

Dutch fan at gates of Graceland.

Graffitied wall outside Graceland.

Graffitied wall outside Graceland.

Graffitied wall outside Graceland. Memphis TN 1987

Graffitied wall outside Graceland. Memphis TN 1987

Offerings at the Memorial Garden and the eternal flame. August 16, 1987

Offerings at the Memorial Garden and the eternal flame. August 16, 1987

Candlelight Vigil. Elvis Death week, Memphis TN 1997

Candlelight Vigil. Elvis Death week, Memphis TN 1997

Best friends, Elvis Death week. Memphis TN 1997

Best friends, Elvis Death week. Memphis TN 1997

Father and son Elvis impersonators. Elvis Death Week, MemphisTN 1997

Father and son Elvis impersonators. Elvis Death Week, MemphisTN 1997

Annathena and Jamie at Graceland

Annathena and Jamie at Graceland

Jami Wollof has been to Graceland 5 times. He came down with Annathena, a first time visitor and ten other friends from Rhode Island. Annathena says it's "more than I expected"'the gravesite left her "completely choked up." She left feeling "more spiritual then ever."

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Paul Macleod and son, Elvis Aaron Presley Macleod at Gracelandtoo museum.

Paul Macleod and son, Elvis Aaron Presley Macleod at Gracelandtoo museum.

Paul MacLeod at Gracelandtoo.

Paul MacLeod at Gracelandtoo.

Elvis Aaron Presley MacLeod in the record room at Gracelandtoo.

Elvis Aaron Presley MacLeod in the record room at Gracelandtoo.

A bevy of Elvi.

A bevy of Elvi.

Waiting on the curb of Elvis Presely Blvd. outside Graceland.

Waiting on the curb of Elvis Presely Blvd. outside Graceland.

Japanese fans at Graceland.

Japanese fans at Graceland.

Lisa Conrad and friend by one of Elvis' old cars.

Lisa Conrad and friend by one of Elvis' old cars.

Elvis Aaron. Memphis TN. 1997

Elvis Aaron. Memphis TN. 1997

Bringing people and their tattoos together. This fan from England has had over forty hours of tattoo work done on his back in a montage that represents a history of Presley's career. Whis this fan from New Jersey grew up on Elvis thanks to her mother and got this tatto on her rear to prove to friends that she was as big an Elvis fan as she professed.

Bringing people and their tattoos together. This fan from England has had over forty hours of tattoo work done on his back in a montage that represents a history of Presley's career. Whis this fan from New Jersey grew up on Elvis thanks to her mother and got this tatto on her rear to prove to friends that she was as big an Elvis fan as she professed.

Elvis impersonator, Steve Murphy. Elvis Death week, Memphis TN 1997

Elvis impersonator, Steve Murphy. Elvis Death week, Memphis TN 1997

Dog dressed as Elvis.

Dog dressed as Elvis.

Elvis Impersonator and daughter.

Elvis Impersonator and daughter.

Elvis Impersonator and fan.

Elvis Impersonator and fan.

Elvis Impersonators and fan.

Elvis Impersonators and fan.

Elvis fans.

Elvis fans.

Elvis Impersonator and fan.

Elvis Impersonator and fan.

Elvis Impersonator on stage kissing baby.

Elvis Impersonator on stage kissing baby.

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BLankard.1987.08.170005.jpg

Poplar Tunes during Elvis Death Week.

The continuing phenomenon of Elvis Presley fandom has long been a fascination of mine. I can recall the first 45 my mother played from her childhood collection was Presley's "Won't you wear my ring around your neck." I am intrigued by the legitimate groundbreaker that was Elvis, but am also equally drawn to the over-the-top kitsch that he also represents. 

My first visit to Graceland was in 1985, it was everything I had hoped for. I made a promise to myself to return to photograph it on the anniversary of Elvis' death. That occurred on August 16, 1987, the tenth anniversary of his passing. What I had not figured on was how this date coincided with another event that had been getting a lot of attention at the time, the Harmonic Convergence. In short, there was to be a rare alignment of the sun and planets and Adherents in a Mayan prediction felt this signified a time when "signs indicated a "major energy shift" was about to occur, a turning point in Earth's collective karma and dharma, and that this energy was powerful enough to change the global perspective of man from one of conflict to one of co-operation." To paraphrase, folks believed that people of all nations and beliefs would gather in peace, worship the same god, and speak the same language. I had heard all this and mostly ignored it. Imagine my surprise when I am roaming the grounds at Graceland and I see visitors from Japan, Germany, Holland, California, Rhode Island...all waiting in line to honor "The King" and singing Elvis songs together while holding candles. I kinda freaked out. I was overwhelmed with the notion that I had accidentally stumbled right into the middle of this "convergence." I could see the transition from the "Evils of the modern world" to the Elvis of the modern world.  I made very few images that mattered. I choked. 

Years passed, but I resolved to try again. So ten years later, on the 20th anniversary, I set out again. Laden with far too much equipment, my main mission was to make Polaroid Pos/Neg portraits of the variety of folks that gathered on Elvis Presley Blvd. I gave the polaroid positives to my subjects and kept the soft, wet negatives with me in a fixing solution for the whole day. I took some other images of Elvis impersonators. I ended the trip the next day with a visit to Gracelandtoo, a father and son museum in Holly Springs, Mississippi, dedicated entirely to Elvis. These are the images that resulted.

Poolside shrine. Graceland. Memphis TN 1987

Dutch Elvis fan. "Rocking' Rebel" combs his pompadour. Elvis Death day, 1987

Dutch fan at gates of Graceland.

Graffitied wall outside Graceland.

Graffitied wall outside Graceland. Memphis TN 1987

Offerings at the Memorial Garden and the eternal flame. August 16, 1987

Candlelight Vigil. Elvis Death week, Memphis TN 1997

Best friends, Elvis Death week. Memphis TN 1997

Father and son Elvis impersonators. Elvis Death Week, MemphisTN 1997

Annathena and Jamie at Graceland

Jami Wollof has been to Graceland 5 times. He came down with Annathena, a first time visitor and ten other friends from Rhode Island. Annathena says it's "more than I expected"'the gravesite left her "completely choked up." She left feeling "more spiritual then ever."

Paul Macleod and son, Elvis Aaron Presley Macleod at Gracelandtoo museum.

Paul MacLeod at Gracelandtoo.

Elvis Aaron Presley MacLeod in the record room at Gracelandtoo.

A bevy of Elvi.

Waiting on the curb of Elvis Presely Blvd. outside Graceland.

Japanese fans at Graceland.

Lisa Conrad and friend by one of Elvis' old cars.

Elvis Aaron. Memphis TN. 1997

Bringing people and their tattoos together. This fan from England has had over forty hours of tattoo work done on his back in a montage that represents a history of Presley's career. Whis this fan from New Jersey grew up on Elvis thanks to her mother and got this tatto on her rear to prove to friends that she was as big an Elvis fan as she professed.

Elvis impersonator, Steve Murphy. Elvis Death week, Memphis TN 1997

Dog dressed as Elvis.

Elvis Impersonator and daughter.

Elvis Impersonator and fan.

Elvis Impersonators and fan.

Elvis fans.

Elvis Impersonator and fan.

Elvis Impersonator on stage kissing baby.

Poplar Tunes during Elvis Death Week.
Poolside shrine. Graceland. Memphis TN 1987
Dutch Elvis fan. "Rocking' Rebel" combs his pompadour. Elvis Death day, 1987
Dutch fan at gates of Graceland.
Graffitied wall outside Graceland.
Graffitied wall outside Graceland. Memphis TN 1987
Offerings at the Memorial Garden and the eternal flame. August 16, 1987
Candlelight Vigil. Elvis Death week, Memphis TN 1997
Best friends, Elvis Death week. Memphis TN 1997
Father and son Elvis impersonators. Elvis Death Week, MemphisTN 1997
Annathena and Jamie at Graceland
BAL_08.1997.graceland8.jpg
Paul Macleod and son, Elvis Aaron Presley Macleod at Gracelandtoo museum.
Paul MacLeod at Gracelandtoo.
Elvis Aaron Presley MacLeod in the record room at Gracelandtoo.
A bevy of Elvi.
Waiting on the curb of Elvis Presely Blvd. outside Graceland.
Japanese fans at Graceland.
Lisa Conrad and friend by one of Elvis' old cars.
Elvis Aaron. Memphis TN. 1997
Bringing people and their tattoos together. This fan from England has had over forty hours of tattoo work done on his back in a montage that represents a history of Presley's career. Whis this fan from New Jersey grew up on Elvis thanks to her mother and got this tatto on her rear to prove to friends that she was as big an Elvis fan as she professed.
Elvis impersonator, Steve Murphy. Elvis Death week, Memphis TN 1997
Dog dressed as Elvis.
Elvis Impersonator and daughter.
Elvis Impersonator and fan.
Elvis Impersonators and fan.
Elvis fans.
Elvis Impersonator and fan.
Elvis Impersonator on stage kissing baby.
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BLankard.1987.08.170005.jpg