October 15, 2010


If the British Invasion led by The Beatles in the early-mid 1960s had a great influence on the look and sound of the era, then part of the credit can be traced back to the band's stylish friend from their early Hamburg days, photographer Astrid Kirchherr. Fans have seen a handful of Kirchherr's famous images throughout the years, most notably the 'fairground' portraits that she made of The Beatles in 1960. We've heard much about her relationship with painter/Beatle, Stuart Sutcliffe, through various interviews, documentaries, biographies, and bio-pic films. And Kirchherr had some input on the movie Backbeat, which did something to establish how her artsy, existentialist crowd impacted the look of the band. But nothing has ever quite captured the scope of her work as a photographer- until now! The Victoria Gallery & Museum/Liverpool University Press has published the book we've all been waiting for in conjunction with their exhibition of Kirchherr's work (up through January 29, 2011), titled Astrid Kirchherr: a Retrospective. Museum curator, Matthew Clough, highlights Kirchherrr's work as a time capsule of the era beyond her Beatles images in an interview for the BBC: "Astrid is known for her photographs of the Beatles in Hamburg, but her images of Liverpool in the early 60s provide a unique snapshot of a particular moment in its history." If you are a Spy Viber with a taste for black turtlenecks, slender trousers, sunglasses, and electric guitars, there is much to discover in this collection.

The exhibition catalog is a beautifully designed coffee table book with 208 pages of lush prints, countless rare portraits from the 1960s music scene (including great club shots!). Some contact sheets are included, but a few famous ones are conspicuously absent. Though I have not seen the limited edition books Astrid made for Genesis Publications, I can say that this volume offers more images and information about Astrid's work than I have ever come across in the last 35 years of Beatles research and collecting. It also offers interviews with Astrid, Klaus Voormann, and others close to her career. A very special addition to a Beatles, 1960s culture, or Photography library. Thank you VG & M and Astrid for sharing these precious archives. Find the book on Amazon here.

Looking at artists from the era, Spy Vibers may also be interested to learn about your Spy Vibe creator Jason Whiton's recent experimental film for Yoko Ono (with soundtrack by Whiton, Ono, and the Plastic Ono Band). Whiton composed a lounge/jazz style song around vocal tracks provided by Yoko Ono and it was chosen as one of the winners in her re-mix competition. The short film for the song, The Sun is Down, pays tribute to the meaning of Yoko's name- ocean child- with images of sea animals dancing through their underwater gardens. The film was an official selection of the Park City Film Music Festival, where it won an award, and is currently on the festival/gallery screening circuit. Find out more on the film website here.

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