photographic exhibition in Sydney, Australia
Live the King"
by John Savage
Launch: 5th August 2004 6pm-8pm Exhibition Extends until
24th August 2004 Blender Gallery, 16 Elizabeth Street Paddington
Thursday July 15th 2004, a new exhibition opens at Paddington’s
Blender Gallery. ‘Long Live the King’ is a selection of images
from an on-going project exploring devotion to the memory
of Elvis Presley, by John Savage.
Savage is a documentary photographer based in Wellington,
New Zealand. John is a member of the photo agency, Exposed,
which is a small group of New Zealand photographers, whose
aim is promoting their personal work and the medium’s profile
in New Zealand and internationally.
and images from Exposed, can be viewed at their website: www.exposed.co.nz
his background in research, writing and photography, John’s
particular interest is in searching out unusual individuals,
events and sub-cultures. His focus is on subjects that are
international rather than location- or culture-specific. John
also has an interest in landscape imagery including urban
environments and the way natural environments are altered
by human intervention.
the exhibition ‘Long Live the King’, one recurring theme is
the dreamlike nature of Elvis devotion. This is perhaps most
obvious in the nature of the world inhabited by some of the
most devoted disciples and the “Elvii” (impersonators or “tribute
artists”) who have come to represent a kind of Elvis priesthood.
the world inhabited by Elvis himself had a dreamlike quality,
ranging from the darkened, green shag pile interiors of Graceland
to the oddities of street life in downtown Memphis, Presley’s
hometown. Moreover, Elvis’ memory and life is intimately tied
to the American Dream and all that comes with that cultural
package: devotion to God, country and celebrity.
for the most devoted fans, Elvis is the centre of their dreams:
a symbol of hope and goodness. Another recurring theme is
the religious nature of Elvis devotion – complete with shrines,
ceremonies, relics (memorabilia), and priests (Elvii). Indeed
some academics have suggested that Elvis worship has all the
hallmarks of a new religion.
of the images were shot during “Death Week” in Memphis in
2002, making “Death Week” the focus of the exhibition. (Officially
“Elvis Week” is held each year in Memphis to celebrate Elvis’s
life. It is held in mid August on the anniversary of his death
and many thousands of fans from all around the world attend.
Memphis locals cynically refer to it as “Death Week”).
supporting images were shot in New Zealand, the United Kingdom
and Australia. John is continually fuelling his project and
further material will be gathered in Memphis this year.
Live the King’ photographs by John Savage will open on Thursday
July 15th at Blender Gallery, Paddington at 6pm. The exhibition
will run until August 3rd.
Danny Boy Squire
image was shot at the Peabody Hotel, Downtown Memphis.
The hotel is a focal point for many of the fans during
Death Week. An informal but (to the fans) well known
hierarchy of Elvii exists and Danny Boy is one of the
more respected members of the priesthood (and he knows
fans exhibit is a kind of ambivalence towards the tribute
artists (who never, themselves, use the term “impersonator”).
The best (good looking, accomplished performers) are generally
respected. The worst are frowned about.
Plaza is a shopping/tourist centre across the road from
Graceland mansion. It is owned by Elvis Presley Enterprises
who also manage Graceland. During Death Week an almost
continuous stream of Elvis tribute artists perform in
a large tent at the Plaza. Elvis Bombay was wondering
about (with his friend Carl) looking dejected.
complained to me that he had not been allowed to perform alongside
the other artists. None of those in charge of the performance
list could explain to him why he was banned.
an effort to reach as many fans as possible, Elvis Presley
Enterprises (EPE) have built Mobile Graceland: a huge
trailer unit full of Elvis memorabilia. It was parked
at Graceland Plaza during Death Week 2002 prior to an
extensive tour of North America. One of the challenges
facing EPE is the aging demographic of established Elvis
Blender Gallery, 1 August 2004)