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LightBox on Tumblr is a window into the lens of LightBox, a blog by TIME’s photo department that explores how photography, video and the culture of images define today’s world.

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Photograph © Alfred Wertheimer

Today would have been Elvis Presley’s 79th birthday. No photographer ever got as close to him as Alfred Wertheimer. His intimate photographs of the young, rising star reveal a carefree and innocent time before he became a cultural icon. TIME met with Wertheimer to reminisce about the days and nights he spent with the rocker on the cusp of unfathomable fame.

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