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Obituaries

Beatles album cover photographer Robert Freeman dies at 82

Robert Freeman
Robert Freeman in 2006 at an exhibition of his photos devoted to George Harrison in Valencia, Spain.
(Manuel Bruque / EPA/Shutterstock)

Photographer Robert Freeman, who helped define the image of the Beatles with some of the band’s best-known album covers, has died. He was 82.

The Beatles’ official website announced Freeman’s death Friday but didn’t give a cause.

Born in 1936, Freeman began his career as a photojournalist for London’s Sunday Times and captured portraits of leading jazz musicians before working with the Beatles.

He shot the black-and-white cover for the 1963 album “With the Beatles,” picturing the Fab Four’s faces in part-shadow.

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It became a defining image of the group and was used for the 1964 U.S. album “Meet the Beatles.” In an online tribute, Paul McCartney said, “People often think that the cover shot for ‘Meet the Beatles’ of our foreheads in half shadow was a carefully arranged studio shot.”

“In fact it was taken quite quickly by Robert in the corridor of a hotel we were staying in where natural light came from the windows at the end of the corridor,” McCartney wrote.

Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, George Harrison.
The Beatles, clockwise from top left, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, and George Harrison in 1965 in a cover shot for the British EP “Beatles for Sale No. 2" by Robert Freeman.
(Robert Freeman / Associated Press)

Freeman went on to photograph the covers of “Beatles for Sale,” “Help!” — with its image of the band members holding semaphore-style flags — and 1965’s “Rubber Soul.” For that cover, Freeman subtly stretched the Beatles’ faces, suggesting the psychedelic experiments to come.

McCartney said Freeman “was one of our favorite photographers during the Beatles years who came up with some of our most iconic album covers.”

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He called him “imaginative and a true original thinker.”

Ringo Starr, the other surviving Beatle, tweeted: “God bless Robert Freeman peace and love to all his family.”

John Lennon was killed in 1980 and George Harrison died in 2001.


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