The American Dream? Elvis Presley, William Eggleston & the 'lost' photos of Graceland

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Published conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    This paper brings together three Memphis icons: Elvis Presley, photographer William Eggleston and Graceland.Using an interdisciplinary approach drawn from music, art, photography, representation and cultural theory, this paper explores Eggleston’s pictures of Elvis’ former home, Graceland. These photographs were commissioned by the Graceland Division of Elvis Presley Enterprises after the King’s death and the opening of Graceland as a museum. They were published in 1983 in Elvis At Graceland a guidebook for fans and visitors – though it was withdrawn shortly after. In 1984 Eggleston published 11 photographs from the session as a portfolio entitled William Eggleston’s Graceland.In these photographs, taken several years after Presley’s death, Elvis is obviously absent yet strangely ever present. Eggleston’s intense use of colour was well suited to over-the-top nature of Graceland. Eggleston’s techniques enhanced the surreal otherworldliness of Elvis’ home, creating a version of Southern Gothic. As with his other work these photographs are very much rooted in place.What do these photographs tell us about Elvis? About Eggleston? About Graceland? About our relationship with Elvis? About the American Dream?Elvis and Eggleston never met. Yet both were born in Mississippi then settled in nearby Memphis. They were a similar age – Elvis was just 5 years older. However they came from very different backgrounds.Elvis grew up in poverty in a two room shotgun shack in Tupelo, buying Graceland in 1957 once he was an established star. Eggleston was from a wealthy family and grew up in the kind of cotton plantation house that would have inspired the original 1939 design for Graceland. While Eggleston’s photos are devoid of people and arguably detached, this paper contends that they serve as portraits of Elvis, and of Graceland as home, folly, museum and mausoleum, while also commenting on the American Dream.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationRe-thinking Elvis
    EditorsMark Duffett
    Place of PublicationOxford
    PublisherOxford University Press
    Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


    Dive into the research topics of 'The American Dream? Elvis Presley, William Eggleston & the 'lost' photos of Graceland'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this