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2002-Apr-21: A Chat with Astrid Kirchherr

Silver K Gallery Flyer for the exhibitToday's Sunday Herald Sun featured an interview Astrid Kirchherr granted to reporter Clark Forbes to publicize her  exhibition of photographs from the Beatles' Hamburg period which is currently being shown at the Silver K Gallery in High St, Armadale.  In the interview, she spoke fondly of her friends Paul, John, George, Pete Best and Stu Sutcliffe and recalled that at the time the photos were taken all the young Beatles fancied her:
"They were mostly attracted to what I was, a photographer, and I looked completely different to all the other girls.  I didn't wear a petticoat, I didn't have a beehive, and I wore black leather and had very short blonde hair and a lot of makeup around my eyes. I looked quite weird, I must admit."
Although she insists it was more by accident than design, her look had a major influence creating the Beatles look.  According  to Ms. Kirchherr:
"I didn't sit down and invent it.  People forget it was so soon after the war and we couldn't go and buy a pair of shoes or some trousers."
As Ms. Kirchherr and Stu Sutcliffe were the same height and build, he fit into her clothes.  When he started to wear her black collar-less velvet jacket, the band soon traded their leather jackets for new suits without collars.  Ms. Kirchherr recalls discovering the famous Beatle boots a shopping trip to London while buying some ballet pumps for herself.  Ms. Kirchherr recalls:
"The shop had these Spanish flamenco boots with high heels and elastic sides.  Stuart was so small, so I told him to try them on, and they fitted perfectly and he became a bit taller. When John and George saw them, they thought they were absolutely great and went to the shop and bought the Spanish dancer shoes, and that's how the Beatle boots came about."
The famous Beatle haircuts were copied from the French hair-style Ms. Kirchherr and her art-school friends wore.
"We cut one another's hair. That's what I did to Stuart and to George and Paul. It was all between friends. I'm not a stylist. I was just a good friend who looked different from the rest and they liked it."
Because he Beatles were her friends and they didn't have much money at the time, she photographed them for free. "What else would I have done?" she said.  Then the Beatles became famous and her pictures were published all over the world:
"Everybody printed my pictures and didn't bother to pay me for them.  I'm a very silly woman as far as money is concerned."
As the years passed Ms. Kirchherr never lost contact with her friends George and Paul.  She remembers fondly :
"Paul used to be a little disturbed by Stuart not practising, and he was right because Stuart did not bother at all. At home he used to paint instead. But Paul never wanted Stuart to leave the band.

"I never lost contact.  One of my best friends was George, and Paul as well, but I was always very close to George. I am very happy that he invited me last year before he died, and that was wonderful. It is one of the greatest pleasures to have had the opportunity to have had such a great friend ... dear George.

"But Stu was the one who amazed me -- the way he understood being on stage.  He turned his back to the audience and he wore black sunglasses and he smoked while playing the bass and he was a very good-looking man. He was very charming and had a lot of humour. He was wonderful, not only to look at, but to talk to because he was highly intelligent."

Astrid Kirchherr's Hamburg photographs will be on exhibit at the Silver K Gallery through May 5.

(kindly submitted by PLUGGED correspondent Joan M. Hopkins)


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