Shaw Quan

I Was The One

I Was The One seeks to understand the myth, plurality, obsession, and phenomena surrounding Elvis Presley through the Elvis tribute artist and community. Over the decades, millions of individuals have paid homage and embarked on pilgrimages in the name of their king. The level of devotion had by these individuals, those performing and those in attendance is unparalleled. Church services are held where fans sing his gospel, thousands of dollars are spent on jewelry and ephemera, and a community is formed in celebration of the life of Elvis. Elvis had surpassed the level of a great musician or performer, now existing as a symbol, an individual that has been mythologized to the point of worship. A living representation of the American dream. Elvis was an incredibly fascinating celebrity whose career was inundated with exploitation, drug abuse, depression, and a slow descent into madness. The gatherings are more than just an excuse to dress up or hear live music, they feel more akin to a wake or celebration of life and reveal an extremely strange but genuine look at the human condition.

The photographs were shot over a four year period in massive gatherings as well as intimate meetings between myself and hobby tribute artist, Eddie Evans. They attempt to explore ideas of artifice, nostalgia, obsession and identity, mining the massive and complex cultural myth that is Elvis. Often blurring the lines between fact and fiction the images document this fascination and multiplicity of Elvis; the good Christian son and the sex symbol, the artificial and the genuine. This incredibly human act of devotion and adoration displayed by the community is juxtaposed with the artificial and performative nature of the gatherings and tributes. The photographs acknowledge the vast ocean of Elvis Imagery and subvert it through application of various photographic styles, tropes, and mediums. Oftentimes both somber and joyous, the photographs depict humble moments of grandiose.