Astrid Kirchherr, the German photographer who shot some of the earliest and most striking images of the Beatles and helped shape their trendsetting visual style, has died at age 81. She died Wednesday in her native Hamburg, days before her 82nd birthday. Her death was first announced by Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, who tweeted Friday that Kirchherr made an "immeasurable" contribution to the group and was "intelligent, inspirational, innovative, daring, artistic, awake, aware, beautiful, smart, loving and uplifting." According to the German publication Die Zeit, she died of a "short, serious illness." Kirchherr was a photographer's assistant in Hamburg in 1960 when then-boyfriend Klaus Voormann dropped in at a seedy club, the Kaiserkeller, and found himself mesmerized by a young British rock group: the five raw musicians from Liverpool had recently named themselves the Beatles.
As she later recalled, Voormann spent the next few days convincing Kirchherr to join him, a decision that profoundly changed her. "They looked absolutely astonishing," Kirchherr later told Beatles biographer Bob Spitz. "My whole life changed in a couple of minutes. All I wanted was to be with them and to know them." Kirchherr found her ideal subjects in the Beatles, especially their bassist at the time, Stuart Sutcliffe. They quickly fell in love, though Sutcliffe tragically collapsed and died of a cerebral hemorrhage in April 1962, at age 21. She married and divorced twice and said she never got over his death. "He was, and still is, the love of my life," she told NPR in 2010. Kirchherr was liked and trusted by all of the Beatles, and she took indelible black-and-white portraits of the group. "God bless Astrid a beautiful human being," Ringo Starr's Twitter account posted Friday. Much more on Kirchherr here.
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