Thursday, November 20, 2014

Artifact: Astrid Kirchherr "Teneriffa '63" photo portfolio

Up for bid at Heritage Auctions.


The Beatles were perhaps the most-photographed entertainers of all time, and Astrid Kirchherr is perhaps the photographer whose name is most associated with the group. Having met them shortly after their arrival in Hamburg in August 1960, Kirchherr was instantly attracted to both their magnetic personalities and brash early Rock 'n Roll look - this was still the Beatles of black leather and greased-back Elvis quiffs. Her stark black & white photo of the five piece band - John, Paul, George, along original drummer Pete Best and bassist Stuart Sutcliffe - taken on the grounds of the Hamburg Fun Fair is perhaps second only to Iain Macmillan's Abbey Road cover in the pantheon of iconic Beatles images. It was through Klaus Voorman that Kirchherr was introduced to the band at the Indra Club in Hamburg's Reeperbahn district, and she and Voorman remain important figures in the fascinating story of the Beatles to this day.
Two and a half years after that introduction, the Beatles were in a very different place, both literally and figuratively. Stuart Sutcliffe had left the group and subsequently died, Ringo had replaced Pete Best, and Brian Epstein had become their manager - in doing so moving them out of black leather and into smart suits, and securing them the recording contract which they'd always dreamed of. "Please Please Me", their second single, had gone to number one at the end of February, 1963. Capitalizing on their growing success, they'd been on a breakneck schedule of touring, making television and radio appearances, and recording their first LP - seemingly working eight days a week for months. So when their schedule cleared at the end of April, the Beatles took 12 days off for holidays in the sun: Brian and John went to Spain, and Paul, George and Ringo - in the company of Astrid and Klaus, whom they'd remained friendly with - went to the island of Tenerife, staying at the Voorman family home there. These rarely seen photos from Tenerife show the three Beatles and Astrid relaxing by a swimming pool near the ocean, free from the pressures of Beatlemania that had recently been unleashed at home. Taken with Astrid's portable Rolleicord camera in glorious color, the candid images preserve an amazing moment in time in the Beatles story - one that they may not be aware of themselves - as it may be one of the last times they were free to be in public and not be recognized. The first taste of fame has been experienced, and there will be no going back, ever.

This rare portfolio entitled "Teneriffa '63," dates to 1985 - the first and only time that the color Tenerife photos were produced in a professional edition from the original negatives by Astrid Kirchherr. Originally envisioned as an edition of 100, only 15 portfolios were produced, and only a few - including this one - were sold as complete, unbroken sets. Each of the eleven included prints is approximately 11.5" x 8", with the color images measuring approximately 7.75" x 7.75". Each print is signed by Kirchherr and numbered 11/100, and also included is a signed, dated, and sealed certificate from the photographer.

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