Early Beatles photographer Astrid Kirchherr dead at age 81

Astrid Kirchherr, the German photographer who befriended The Beatles during their time performing in the clubs of Hamburg, Germany, and took some of the earliest pictures of the band, died Tuesday, May 12, at age 81, German newspaper Die Zeit reports.

According to the paper, Kirchherr passed away after a short, serious illness.

Kirchherr was a local art student when she became friends with The Beatles in 1960. At the time, the band featured John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison on vocals and guitars, along with Pete Best on drums and Stu Sutcliffe on bass.

According to Rolling Stone, after going to watch a Beatles performance, Astrid snapped some famous black-and-white photos of the group at a local fairground. She also is credited with influencing the band’s style. Later in 1960, she became engaged to Sutcliffe, who left The Beatles the following year and moved to Hamburg to live with Kirchherr and to study painting at a local college. Sadly, Sutcliffe died of a cerebral hemorrhage in April 1962 at age 21.

In 1964, The Beatles hired Kirchherr to be a set photographer while the band was filming A Hard Day’s Night. She photographed George Harrison for the inside of his 1968 album Wonderwall, but gave up photography soon after and focused on a career in interior design.

Astrid served as a consultant for the 1994 film Back Beat, which focused on The Beatles’ time in Hamburg and Kirchherr’s romance with Sutcliffe.

Pete Best paid tribute to Kirchherr in a Twitter message posted Friday that reads, “Absolutely stunned to hear the news of Astrid passing. God bless you love. We shared some wonderful memories and the most amazing fun times.”

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