The Kings Of England is a photo book which celebrates the colour, spectacle and love of the people in the UK who pay tribute to Elvis Presley. Over a five-year period, Graeme has been photographing people who love Elvis Presley. He travelled the length and breadth of the UK to witness the legions of Elvis Impersonators pay tribute to The King.
He began by documenting the sheer spectacle of what I saw – “I was drunk on the sheer exuberance, colour and spectacle of the shows and performers who I met at conventions, competitions, pubs and clubs and even in old folks homes. 40 years after his death, Elvis is still a hugely important cultural figure in the UK. What then happened, as the project matured, is he began to appreciate and photograph the individuals and their stories that lay behind the spectacle. What that revealed were individual stories of devotion, tragedy and resilience which are at the heart of what this book is about. People like Alfie – a 13-year-old boy who was relentlessly bullied at school. Devoted to Elvis, Alfie began to practice in his room night after night and, supported by his mum and dad, entered a competition in Wales, returning a winner and giving Alfie the confidence to perform regularly.
People like Polk Salad Annie, a spirit medium and super fan who saw the King perform in the seventies. Now the Elvis Tribute Artists eagerly seek out her opinion on their performances and despite what some people might think of as reduced circumstances she is a very important person in the Elvis world, known and regarded by hundreds if not thousands of people, and people like Elvis Parkin, the man who started this project off. I knew Parkin years previously and came across him again in a garage forecourt. He was sporting a gold lame jacket, long black hair and shades and was pumping unleaded into a massive old Cadillac. “I’m living the dream” he said. And he still is.
The introduction to the book is written by poet and broadcaster Ian McMillan who shares a fascination with all things Elvis. There is also an essay by academic and author Dr Eamonn Griffin.
Graeme is now publishing the work as a limited-edition photo book with respected publisher Bluecoat Press. (John Bulmer, Tish Murtha & Jim Mortram) Have a look at the rewards on offer and pledge your support to bring this fascinating aspect of working-class culture to a wider audience. Pledge Here.