Astrid Kirchherr: a stylish outsider who saw beauty in the Beatles

As the various obituaries that marked her passing testify, Astrid Kirchherr’s fate was to be forever associated with the Beatles, a group she met almost by accident and whose image she remade so audaciously. It was Kirchherr’s boyfriend, Klaus Voormann, who insisted that she and their friend, Jürgen Vollmer, came with him to the spectacularly seedy Kaiserkeller in Hamburg’s red-light district on an October evening in 1960. The previous night Voormann, a jazz fan who had never attended a rock’n’roll gig before, had been mesmerised by the Beatles’ raw on-stage energy as they performed to a motley crew of drunks, sailors and prostitutes. Kirchherr, though, immediately saw something else in them. “I was amazed at how beautiful they looked,” she said, later. “It was a photographer’s dream, my dream.” Kirchherr had just completed a photography course at the College of Design and Fashion in Hamburg, where her tutor had been Reinhart Wolf, who would later become an acclaimed photographer of architectural facades. On graduating, she worked as his assistant for a further three years, but her abiding interest was the architecture of the human face.

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