RIP Astrid Kirchherr

All lovers of photography have their favourite photographers. I love the work of Eve Arnold, who took so many beautiful, natural photographs of Marilyn Monroe, and Milton Greene for the same reason. I love Corrine Day’s early photographs of Kate Moss, and the stunning shots of Richard Avedon, the inspiration for Funny Face. But one photographer who I have loved since I was a teenager is Astrid Kirchherr who was so instumental in photographing the early, original Beatles, the woman who fell in love with the fifth Beatle, the tragic Stewart Sutcliffe, and who died this week at the age of 81.

Astrid and Stewart’s story was told in the 1990’s movie Backbeat, which I remember going to the cinema to see with my sister, and absolutely loving. They met when during The Beatles Hamburg period, when Pete Best was still the drummer, and Stewart was the fifth Beatle, although he left soon after to pursue his interest in art and photography, and was to die of a brain haemorrhage at the age of just 21 in 1962. Astrid was instrumental in shaping the Beatles look, she cut Stewart’s hair into the moptop style that become synonomous with the Beatles, she took the moody black and white images that showed off their early style, and she wore the collarless jackets that are a huge part of the early Beatles look.

Astrid was beautiful and stylish, and one hell of a photographer. Her black and white shots of The Beatles show a group on the cusp of stardom, with the leather jackets that may have been closer in style to the personalities of the band, certainly of John Lennon. The beautiful tributes from the likes of Ringo Starr, Julian Lennon and Olivia Harrison show how widely loved and held in regard she was by those close to The Beatles, and her striking photography is a testament to her talent and taste, her eye for detail and her love for her subject.



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