Max Scheler – K & K / Redferns
Before becoming world-famous mop icons, the Beatles looked like a bunch of oilers. And photographer Astrid Kirchherr is often seen as the first to capture the group’s fashion trends and influence their new direction.
Kirchherr, who met with the group after a performance in 1960 in Hamburg, Germany, died Wednesday at the age of 81 after a short illness, German media reported.
“Intelligent, inspiring, innovative, bold, artistic, alert, aware, beautiful, intelligent, loving and uplifting for many people”, Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn tweeted. “Her gift to the Beatles was immeasurable,” wrote Lewisohn, adding that she died “a few days before being 82 years old.”
Danke schön, Astrid Kirchherr. Intelligent, inspiring, innovative, daring, artistic, alert, aware, beautiful, intelligent, loving and uplifting for many. His gift to the Beatles was immeasurable. She died Wednesday in Hamburg, a few days before her 82 years. RIP. pic.twitter.com/c8UHNK1tj4
– Mark Lewisohn (@ marklewisohn) May 15, 2020
Kirchherr, born in 1938, was about 22 years old when she and her boyfriend at the time, Klaus Voorman, went to see a moderately popular group from Liverpool playing a dark, dirty, and not entirely appropriate club for ladies in his hometown of Hamburg.
“It took him a few days to convince me to go with him to see the boys, because Reeperbahn is not a place where young women from the 50s or 60s were to be seen … it was not a nice place,” , she told Terry Gross of Fresh Air in 2008.
“When I went down the stairs and watched the scene, I was just amazed at the beauty of these boys. And being a photographer at the time was a photographer’s dream. “
The Beatles at the time included John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, drummer Pete Best and bassist Stuart Sutcliffe. She befriended the group after the show and somehow convinced them to let her start filming them. Within a few months, Kirchherr and Sutcliffe had fallen in love and, in November 1960, the couple was engaged.
In fact, Sutcliffe, who was also a painter, left the group to live with Kirchherr and his mother and attend art school in Hamburg. He died of a brain hemorrhage in April 1962 before he could marry. He was only 21 years old.
“He was, and still is, the love of my life,” said Kirchherr. Their relationship is at the center of the 1994 film Backbeat, on the Beatles’ pre-recording days in Germany.
Part of the Kirchherr-Beatles legend is that she was the first to give Sutcliffe the famous mop haircut, and the others eventually followed. “Well, my boyfriend, Klaus, had a big problem because his ears were sticking out and I then had the idea of just growing my hair on it, which he then did and it was absolutely beautiful” , she said in this 2008 interview. “So when the boys saw Klaus, Stuart was the first to say, oh, I wish I had this hairstyle. “
Many of the first black and white photos she took of the group were an integral part of the collective photographic memory of the group and the 1960s as a whole.
His photographic work has also attracted worldwide attention; she has exhibited in Japan, Australia, the United States and Great Britain. Even after Sutcliffe’s death, she remained an artistic collaborator of the Beatles – Kirchherr was a still photographer on their first film, A hard day’s Night.
And in 1968 George Harrison persuaded Kirchherr to shoot a session for his solo project Wonderwall Music. It’s his portrait of him that’s printed inside the album. This is one of the last known photos that Kirchherr took – she finally gave up photography for interior design because, as she said, “I didn’t know if I was really good or is it only the Beatles who made me, in a way, famous? And I no longer knew if I was good or not, so I gave it up. ”
Absolutely amazed to hear the news from Astrid pass. God bless you, love. We shared wonderful memories and the most incredible moments of pleasure. Condolences to family and friends, Pete (Petey) pic.twitter.com/lNduJ8EHHC
– Pete Best (@BeatlesPeteBest) May 15, 2020
“Absolutely amazed to hear the news of Astrid’s death,” former Beatles drummer Pete Best wrote on Twitter.
Better added: “God bless you my love. We shared wonderful memories and the most incredible moments of pleasure. “