The world lost a great trail-blazer! I was saddened to hear of the passing of this amazing woman, Astrid Kirchherr, and to know she was one of the most positive, gifted and talented influences on the Beatles and their career made me want to read more about her. It’s always a real treat to read up on the great works of others and also learn about famous people from the earlier eras. Those of us who aren’t familiar or are just becoming familiar with Astrid, will enjoy reading up about her and the exciting way she transformed the Beatles from their 50s greaser hair style to the Mop-top, a more rocker style that would become their style throughout their early years. Thanks to Astrid for having a keen eye for fashion, hair and photography and leaving behind a huge legacy that will last for years!
Astrid Kirchherr, the German-born photographer who first captured the Beatles, has died at the age of 81. German newspaper Die Zeit confirmed Kirchherr’s death, noting the photographer died of a “short, serious illness.”
“Intelligent, inspirational, innovative, daring, artistic, awake, aware, beautiful, smart, loving and uplifting friend to many,” Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn). “Her gift to the Beatles was immeasurable. She died in Hamburg on Wednesday, a few days before turning 82.”
After attending performances by the Beatles — then John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, drummer Pete Best, and bassist and “fifth Beatle” Stuart Sutcliffe — performing in her native Hamburg, Germany, in 1960, she convinced the band to accompany her to a nearby fairground where the first, now-iconic photos of the then-quintet were taken.
“They were all so young, and I was so different. I was a few years older; I had my own flat, my own car, my own career. They hadn’t met anyone like me before,” Kirchher once said of meeting the Beatles. “In some ways I was more like a mother figure.”
After their initial meeting, Sutcliffe and Kirchherr soon began a relationship and became engaged in November 1960. By June 1961, Sutcliffe left the Beatles to attend the Hamburg College of Art to pursue painting. However, Sutcliffe died of a cerebral hemorrhage in April 1962 at the age of 21. Sutcliffe and Kirchherr’s relationship is the focus of the 1994 film Backbeat, about the Beatles’ Hamburg days.
Kirchherr is also credited with giving the Beatles their mop-top look — “Astrid was the one who influenced our image more than anyone else. It made us look good,” Harrison once said — but the photographer dismissed that claim, noting that many German art students at that time — including her ex-boyfriend and longtime Beatles collaborator Klaus Voormann—had that hairstyle.
In 1964, Kirchherr reunited with the Fab Four to serve as set photographer on the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night film. Three years later, she married drummer Gibson Kemp, who was Ringo Starr’s replacement in Rory Storm and the Hurricanes after Starr replaced Best in the Beatles. Kirchherr also photographed the Harrison portrait featured within 1968’s Wonderwall Music, one of the last photographs Kirchherr snapped before changing her profession to interior design.
“Absolutely stunned to hear the news of Astrid passing,” Pete Best tweeted on Friday. “God bless you love. We shared some wonderful memories and the most amazing fun times.”