Robert Freeman, Beatles album cover photographer, dies at 82

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

A statement on the Beatles’ official website announced Mr. Freeman’s death Friday but didn’t give a cause.

Born in 1936, Mr. 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. It became a defining image of the group and was used for the 1964 US 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.

‘‘Will we ever forget that photo?’’ Washington-based photography curator Chris Murray said in an interview. ‘‘It heralded the beginning of the British Invasion. You’re listening to the impact of that music for the first time, then you look at Robert Freeman’s portrait of the Beatles — it was magical.’’

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

He called him ‘‘imaginative and a true original thinker.’’

Ringo Starr tweeted: ‘‘God bless Robert Freeman peace and love to all his family.’’

From 1963 to 1965, Mr. Freeman worked extensively with the Beatles, shooting the covers for the British releases of ‘‘A Hard Day’s Night,’’ ‘‘Beatles for Sale,’’ ‘‘Help!,’’ and ‘‘Rubber Soul.’’ (The corresponding US albums sometimes had different cover art.)


The slightly distorted color image of ‘‘Rubber Soul’’ came about by accident. Mr. Freeman often projected his photographs on a piece of white cardboard the same size as a record album, ‘‘giving us an accurate idea of how the finished product would look,’’ McCartney wrote on his website.

‘‘During his viewing session the card which had been propped up on a small table fell backwards giving the photograph a ‘stretched’ look. Instead of simply putting the card upright again we became excited at the idea of this new version of his photograph. He assured us that it was possible to print it this way and because the album was titled Rubber Soul we felt that the image fitted perfectly.’’