“Let’s be frank here: Elvis devotees are a lot like fish in a barrel. Anyone can shoot them, with reliably satisfying results. Their reverence almost invites intrusion. So the measure of a portfolio of Elvis believers is not the colorfulness of the characters – that much is a given – but the empathy of the photographer. Anyone can capture the tribe’s signature plumage. The trick is teasing out the individual humanity underneath.”
Photographer Clémentine Schneidermann began to chronicle the passion of Elvis fans in the “small Welsh town of Porthcawl, where pilgrims in shaggy sideburns gather each September for an Elvis festival. By then she had questions. Why Elvis? Why Wales? What are the parameters of devotion, and the rewards for those who don the rhinestones?”
From the NY Times story:
“The project is not about Elvis, but about how these people want to escape,” she said. “Most are from a working-class background, and they don’t have much money, and Elvis helps them cope with reality.”
Fans were only too happy to invite her into their homes to see their artifacts, often gathered at some expense. In lives buffeted by the four winds, Elvis provided a direction and sense of possibility.
“Every time I asked them, why Elvis, they didn’t talk about the music,” Ms. Schneidermann said. “They were attracted by the American dream, an image of America.”
In her photos, taken in South Wales, the subjects wear their dreams quietly, but in defiance of whatever mundane concerns shape their lives. Escape isn’t easy – for most people, it isn’t even possible. But faith takes strength as much from setbacks as from triumphs.
To read the entire story, click HERE.