“It was like a merry-go-round in my head, they looked absolutely astonishing … My whole life changed in a couple of minutes. All I wanted was to be with them and to know them.” -Astrid Kirchherr

Astrid Kirchherr, first Beatles photographer

Astrid Kirchherr will forever be part of the legendary rock band, The Beatles. Her then-boyfriend, Klaus Voorman, took her to a seedy bar, the Kaiserkeller Club, in Hamburg’s red-light district where he had seen a mesmerizing rock ’n’ roll group, the Silver Beetles, the night before.

The band’s audience was sailors, drunks and prostitutes. Kirchherr saw something else in the band, “I was amazed at how beautiful they looked It was a photographer’s dream, my dream,” she said. She had just finished a photography course at the College of Design and Fashion under Reinhart Wolf, who for the next three years would have her as his assistant. He photographed architecture. But faces fascinated Astrid Kirchherr.

On Photography: Astrid Kirchherr, 1938-2020
“Self Portrait” Astrid Kirchherr

Early photographs of the Beatles

At the time, the Silver Beetles (soon to be known as The Beatles) members were Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul Best and Stuart Sutcliffe. Ringo Starr was playing in Rory Storm and the Hurricanes at the same club.

Astrid Kirchherr began dating Sutcliffe. She offered to photograph the band at a local fairground named Der Dom. She noted, “The Beatles were dressed like teddy boys, with these very, very pointed shoes which we in Hamburg had never seen before. We were fascinated with those, just like they were with our things. And their very tight trousers and little tiny gray jackets. They didn’t have many clothes, of course. And their hair was combed back with sideboards.”

The famous Beatles hairstyle

Sutcliffe would leave the band to pursue his passion, art but not before Astrid by now his girlfriend gave him a mop-top haircut. She described the fashion at the time, “All my friends in art school used to run around with this sort of … what you call Beatles haircut. And my boyfriend then, Klaus Voormann, had this hairstyle, and Stuart liked it very, very much. He was the first one who really got the nerve to get the Brylcreem out of his hair, and asking me to cut his hair for him.”

John Lennon was said to have collapsed laughing at Sutcliffe’s mop cut. Shortly though, George Harrison had her cut his hair in that style. Both Lennon and McCartney adopted the look and The Beatles’ new identity was born.

Astrid Kirchherr defined The Beatles’ early look

Her photographs of The Beatles set the look for the band. She worked with a tripod to make the iconic images. George Harrison remembered her contribution, “Astrid was the one who influenced our image more than anyone else. It made us look good.”

Her photographs made in 1960 were black and white portraits — cool, ‘Rebel Without A Cause’-ish looking, according to Rolling Stone. “It’s fair to say,” said the magazine on May 18, 2020, “that Kirchherr’s photos helped invent the entire idea of The Beatles.”

A Hard Day’s Night

Astrid Kirchherr would photograph the stills for the now world-famous band on the set of their movie “A Hard Day’s Night.”

Astrid Kirchherr died May 15, 2020. She was 81.

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