Throughout their career, The Beatles were blessed with exceptional good fortune as they rarely worked with anyone who did not enhance their career in some way. In 1960 they met the photographer Astrid Kirchherr on their first trip to Hamburg and she was to take outstanding black-and-white images of the band, both individually and collectively. Looking at the first photographs today, it is hard to comprehend that the group were completely unknown. What’s more, she, more than any other photographer, was an important part of their story.
Astrid Kirchherr was born in Hamburg in 1938 where her father was a salesman for Ford Motors. Kirchherr was evacuated during the war while her father delivered supplies to troops. As a teenager, she studied fashion design at the Meisterschule für Mode, Textil, Grafik und Werbung, but a tutor, Reinhard Wolf, was so taken with her photography that he asked her to switch courses. After graduation, she worked as his assistant.
Inspired by the so-called Exis on the Left Bank in Paris, Kirchherr and her friends including fellow students Klaus Voormann and Jürgen Vollmer copied the movement’s stark appearance. In 1995, Kirchherr played down the intellectual aspect of this, saying, “We knew of Sartre and we dressed like the French existentialists. Our philosophy then, and remember we were only little kids, was more in following their looks than their thoughts. We were going around looking moody. We wanted to be different and we wanted to look cool, although we didn’t use that word then.”