ASTRID KIRCHHERR WITH THE BEATLES, photography by ASTRID KIRCHHERR

 |   |  2 min read

ASTRID KIRCHHERR WITH THE BEATLES, photography by ASTRID KIRCHHERR

When the doco on Amy Winehouse came out it was hardly a surprise that there should be so much footage of her as a child, teenage performer and aspiring singer in the many years before she became famous. She, as with anyone born after about 1970, is of the generations when parents and family had cheaper and portable video cameras.

Previous generations of parents and family might have had access to Super 8 film cameras, but they were not the norm.

Photography of course has been a commonplace for about 70 years in middle-class families so there are holiday snapshots aplenty alongside family portraits.

But – a notable exception being the world of jazz – portraits and photos of music personalities in performance were not so common.

It is therefore still surprising that when the unknown Beatles were in Hamburg in the years before their career took off that they – and us – should have had the good fortune to have had so many photos taken of them.

astrid_kirchherr_john_lennon_and_george_harrison_____atticThe chance encounter by the young graphic designer Klaus Voormann in a Hamburg club with the ragtag rock'n'roll band from Liverpool lead to a series of circumstances which meant his photographer girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr and her photographer friend Jurgen Vollmer would be introduced to the Beatles and . . .

There exists a remarkable body of photos of the three young Beatles (Lennon, McCartney and Harrison), then with painter Stuart Sutcliffe in the band, who would become Kirchherr's partner briefly before his death in April 1962.

Obviously Kirchherr and Vollmer took the bulk of these photos, but because Kirchherr worked in the studio of Rheinhart Wolf he took photos of her, Voormann took photos of them . . .

And when fame struck the Beatles and Kirchherr made a rare journey to Liverpool and London to see them – taking some stark photos of rundown Liverpool and portraits of local kids and bands as well as being on the set of A Hard Day's Night – she in turn was snapped with them by Max Scheler.

astrid_kirchherr_beatles___astrid_kirchherr_signed_large_format_photograph_of_rory_storm__hamburg_1962_This 95-page hardback collects scores of images from all of these sources (mostly from Kirchherr's catalogue) and although quite a number are familiar there are many others made widely available for the first time.

Her black'n'white studio shots of Lennon, Harrison and Sutcliffe remain among the most iconic images of the band, but here too is a remarkable portrait of the angular features and sweeping hair of Rory Storm (in whose band Ringo Starr played), many of Sutcliffe, a selection from her Liverpool street scenes and quite a number of her, very much an unsmiling and inexpressive blonde with a beautiful – and very dolly bird/bored student – pout.

Astrid Kirchherr famously didn't capitalise on her relationship with the Beatles at a time when others were selling their stories, and she kept tight control over her work until she all but quit photography in '67.

astrid_kirchherr_liverpool_kidsIn more recent years with sale of her catalogue of negatives more and more of her seminal work has been seen and appreciated for the keen eye she brought, irrespective of her subject.

Her photographs of the kids in the slum streets of Liverpool are as important as her images of a band which went on to become the Beatles as we know them.

Yet as George Harrison once said, “Astrid was the one really who influenced our image more than anybody. She made us look good.”


ASTRID KIRCHHERR WITH THE BEATLES, photography by ASTRID KIRCHHERR. Available through Amazon, approx $US22 (postage not included)

Elsewhere has an archival interview with Astrid Kirchherr here. See also here



Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Writing articles index

INVISIBLE REPUBLIC; BOB DYLAN'S BASEMENT TAPES by GREIL MARCUS:

INVISIBLE REPUBLIC; BOB DYLAN'S BASEMENT TAPES by GREIL MARCUS:

When Bob Dylan skidded off his motorcycle in upstate New York in mid-1966, it allowed him an extraordinary career hiatus. Before his accident - which some Dylan bores still insist never... > Read more

NOWHERE NEAR by ALICE MILLER

NOWHERE NEAR by ALICE MILLER

The first time I went back to Britain as an adult (or at least a late-teen) I wrote in the journal I was carrying that “England is full of dead people”. Graveyards in villages, St... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

JOHN COLTRANE/JOHNNY HARTMAN: THE MASTER SESSIONS, CONSIDERED (1963): The gifted at their ease

JOHN COLTRANE/JOHNNY HARTMAN: THE MASTER SESSIONS, CONSIDERED (1963): The gifted at their ease

When the famous “lost” album Both Directions At Once by saxophonist John Coltrane was discovered and issued in 2018, what was only mentioned in passing – as it was in Elsewhere's... > Read more

JOHN SINCLAIR: MOHAWK, CONSIDERED (2014): They gave him 10 for two . . .

JOHN SINCLAIR: MOHAWK, CONSIDERED (2014): They gave him 10 for two . . .

In popular and political culture John Sinclair is best known for a small handful of things in the Sixties and early Seventies. He founded the White Panther Party, managed Michigan's MC5 and... > Read more