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

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The photographer, who died last week, perceived something unique in the band she met in Hamburg in 1960, and the results changed pop for ever

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.”

This article was amended on 19 May 2020 to correct the names of Juliette Gréco and Gibson Kemp.

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