Beatles Photographer Astrid Kirchherr Dead at 81: A 'Beautiful Human Being,' Says Ringo Starr

The German photographer is credited with taking some of the earliest photos of the iconic band

Photo: Max Scheler - K & K/Redferns

Astrid Kirchherr, the German photographer whose early photos of the Beatles helped to start their journey to fame, died this week in Hamburg — the city where she first discovered the band. She was 81.

Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn announced the news on Twitter, sharing that she died on Tuesday, "just eight days short of her 82nd birthday."

"Her gift to the Beatles was immeasurable," Lewisohn wrote, going on to describe Kirchherr as "intelligent, inspirational, innovative, daring, artistic, awake, aware, beautiful, smart, loving and uplifting friend to many."

Kirchherr, who took some of the most iconic photos of the band and helped to develop their visual style, died of a "short, serious illness," according to German publication Die Zeit.

Kirchherr was working as a photographer's assistant in the 1960s when she came across the British rock group, The Los Angeles Times reported. Her then-boyfriend, musician Klaus Voormann, became mesmerized by the Beatles when he saw them at a club, and later convinced Kirchherr to come to see them for herself.

“It was like a merry-go-round in my head, they looked absolutely astonishing," Kirchherr later told Beatles biographer Bob Spitz, according to The Times. "My whole life changed in a couple of minutes. All I wanted was to be with them and to know them.”

The photographer took her first photo of the group at the city's fairground when Pete Best was still the drummer and Stuart Sutcliffe — who later became Kirchherr's fiancé — was the Beatles' bassist. According to The Guardian, Kirchherr is credited for giving Sutcliffe his "moptop" hairstyle, which eventually became an iconic look for the band.

She remained close to the band for years, working as a set photographer on the group's first movie, A Hard Day's Night, and in 1968, she shot a session for George Harrison's solo project, Wonderwall Music.

After hearing the tragic news of Kirchherr's death, several former Beatles members and friends paid tribute to the acclaimed photographer on social media.

"God bless Astrid a beautiful human being And she took great photos peace and love 😎✌️🌟❤️🎶🎵🍒🥦☮️," Ringo Starr wrote on Instagram Friday.

"Absolutely stunned to hear the news of Astrid passing. God bless you love. We shared some wonderful memories and the most amazing fun times. Condolences to family and friends, Pete (Petey)," Best remarked on Twitter.

Harrison's wife Olivia and son Dhani also honored Kirchherr for her striking work with the late George.

"Dearest Astrid, I really wish I could have spent more time with you in this life. You were always so kind and loving towards me. May God bless you always," Dhani wrote.

Olivia remembered the photographer as "the sweetest woman, so thoughtful and kind and talented, with an eye to capture a soul."

"Our family loved her and none more than George. I am truly saddened but honoured to have known her," she shared.

John Lennon's estate also honored Kirchherr, sharing several of her beautiful black and white photos on Twitter.

"Rest in peace, Astrid Kirchherr," the account wrote.

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