Memphis wasn’t the first place on my mind when I sat down to write this morning, but after looking at the negatives of Graceland left on top of the scanner on my desk, I couldn’t entertain the idea of sweet potatoes, smoky hummus, rice bowls or other recent happenings in the kitchen. Instead, I was shuttled back to the near two weeks spent last summer trip in Tennessee.

TN trip Graceland house 72 dpi

I couldn’t help it. The black-and-white photo of Elvis’ pool I shot last summer reminded me of the humid July day we spent immersed in his life and the objects that once surrounded him. It was my first trip to Memphis and to Graceland. I’ve been an Elvis fan (his early Sun Sessions and Gospel recordings in particular) since I was in second grade when I went with my friend Stephanie’s house after school one day. Her mom was in the living room listening to music and crocheting a sweater or maybe a hat. A stack of vinyl records leaned against the stereo and I remember hearing Elvis’ voice in a way that I hadn’t before. His voice was haunting and sultry. I’m sure I had heard Elvis sing before but standing there in the middle of their peachy orange and brown living room, I felt like hearing music for the first time. The metal crochet needles clicked away as Stephanie pulled on my sailor shirt to follow her down the hallway.

TN trip Graceland pool 72 dpi

Graceland was a special sort of flashy madness. The same way The King himself could be on stage. It was part theme park, part time capsule, part mausoleum. The later is what interested me. I wanted to capture every detail with my camera but couldn’t. My camera was loaded with slow film and we weren’t allowed to use flash so shooting indoors wasn’t an option. I tried to hold my breath and casually lean my body against the green shag wall trailing down from the kitchen overlooking the sunken living room and down into the basement. As expected, the interior shots were a blur. As I steadily snapped away, the wave of tourists pushed me along and somehow I kept shuffling the tracks on my self-guided tour so that I was perpetually stuck at the beginning of the tour, in the formal living and dining rooms. Plastic covers on the white sofas, rooms roped off at the entrances.

TN trip Graceland grave 72 dpi

I didn’t mind. I kept thinking about the staircase up to the second floor, the only part of the house and estate that was off limits. Elvis had requested it be so in his will to protect at least some of his privacy. I would have wanted the same but I couldn’t help wonder if the upstairs was really preserved like the rest of the house or if the rooms had been disassembled and stored elsewhere. Every other aspect of his public life was on display. That must have been tough to live with.

TN trip Graceland plane 72 dpi

Not just for him, but for his family as well. There were so many elements I wanted to capture there, beyond the estate. Another reason to return…


  1. Rachel P Van Raub says

    I Visit Graceland Mansion In Memphis, Tennessee Back In July 2006. I Really Loved It! I’m Taking My 5th Year Old Son Name Thoma. I’m Going To Visit Graceland Again In 2013. This Time I’m Staying Longer Visiting. Looking Forward For A Wonderful Time. Let’s All Have A Good One. Love, Rachel P Van Raub<3

  2. says

    Reading this post it seems weird that I lived in Memphis for three years and never visited Graceland- can you believe it? The mother of one of my friends growing up told me once how much she adored Elvis, and that when the Beatles came along they ruined everything. She said you either love Elvis or the Beatles, but not both. For some reason that always stuck with me. Maybe I need to give Elvis another try, listen to his early stuff and the Gospel as you say. Great post!

  3. says

    I have heard so many people say that Graceland is totally amazing-even for non-Elvis fanatics. I want to go. And now i am going to have “Walking in Memphis” in my brain all day. Pics of Graceland do that to me. :)

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