Lew Allen has had a life-long fascination with cameras and photography. Born in Cleveland in 1939, Lew got his first camera at 13. As a teenager, Lew was the high school newspaper and yearbook photographer. He went on to earn an Associate’s Degree in photography in 1959, and a B.A. in fine arts/photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1961, where he studied under Ralph Hattersley and Minor White, and attended lectures by Ansel Adams and other accomplished photographers.
Lew’s entrée into rock and roll photography came about by serendipity. In November 1956, Elvis Presley’s first movie “Love Me Tender” had been released and he was scheduled to perform at the Cleveland Arena. Cleveland’s three newspapers were all on strike, and Elvis’s record promoter put out a call for help to the local high schools. When Lew showed up at the arena that day with his 4 x 5 Crown Graphic camera, he was the only photographer there - and his pictures of that concert capture a young Elvis Presley surrounded by ecstatic fans.
Lew continued to photograph early rock and rollers, snapping shots of Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers at shows in Rochester, New York at the Auditorium Theatre on January 19, 1958, and the Community War Memorial in October 15, 1958.
Lew’s photographs are on permanent display at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock, Texas. They have been part of special shows at Graceland in Memphis; the Beatles Story Museum and “Fingerprints of Elvis” Exhibition in Liverpool, United Kingdom; the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston; the Brooklyn Museum in New York; and the Butler Museum in Youngstown, Ohio. Lew’s photographs have also been shown at London’s National Portrait Gallery, Paris’s Fondation Cartier, and as part of the touring “Birth of Rock” shows in Finland and The Netherlands, as well as at various private galleries in New York, Los Angeles, and Boston.
Lew’s photographs were featured in the 1999 VH1 television program “The Day the Music Died” and in a 2005 BBC television documentary on Elvis Presley titled “World’s Most Photographed”. Lew’s images have been included in definitive rock and roll photography books such as “Rolling Stone Images of Rock & Roll” (1995); “Elvis and the Birth of Rock” (2006); and Fondation Cartier’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll 39-59” (2008).
Lew currently lives in Phoenix.