Beatles’ Photographer, Robert Freeman, Dies at 82

Share This:

Robert Freeman, best known for his album cover photos for The Beatles, including the well known images for HELP!, Rubber Soul, With The Beatles, and Beatles For Sale, has died. His death, on Nov. 7 at age 82, was announced by The Beatles on their Facebook page on Nov. 8.

Freeman was said to have suffered a severe stroke in 2014.

From 1963 to 1966 he was one of the Beatles favorite photographers, shooting five consecutive album covers for the group’s U.K. album releases on the Parlophone label. Many of those photographs were adapted for the U.S. album releases.

The With The Beatles cover (above) was shot on Aug. 22, 1963, in the coastal town of Bournemouth, England. “They had to fit in the square format of the cover, so rather than have them all in a line, I put Ringo in the bottom right corner, since he was the last to join the group,” he told an interviewer. “He was also the shortest.” The LP was released three months’ later.

In his book, The Beatles: A Private View, Freeman told about his fee. “I was originally offered the equivalent of $50 for the cover, which was the standard fee, but a far cry from what photographers make for covers today. However, Brian [Epstein] did support me in persuading EMI to pay double their normal fee–$100.”

The Beatles’ complete announcement about Freeman’s passing:

“Robert Freeman, long time photographer of The Beatles, has passed away.

“Robert created some of the most iconic images of the band, and were featured on the album covers of With the Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night, Beatles For Sale, HELP! and Rubber Soul. Long will they be loved, discussed, appreciated – and continue to inspire other photographers.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends, along with our appreciation and gratitude for the creative work he produced for the band.”

Paul McCartney made a more detailed statement:

Dear Robert Freeman has passed away. He was one of our favourite photographers during the Beatles years who came up with some of our most iconic album covers. Besides being a great professional he was imaginative and a true original thinker. 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. I think it took no more than half an hour to accomplish.

Bob also took the Rubber Soul cover; his normal practice was to use a slide projector and project the photos he’d taken onto a piece of white cardboard which was exactly album sized, thus giving us an accurate idea of how the finished product would look. 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.

I will miss this wonderful man but will always cherish the fond memories I have of him.

Thanks Bob.

Love Paul

George Harrison’s Facebook page shared this photo of Freeman and Ringo Starr from 1964, taken by Harrison

Freeman had been known for his black-and-white photographs of several prominent jazz musicians including John Coltrane. It was these photographs that impressed the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein and the Beatles themselves that led to his first commission in August 1963 to photograph the group.

Freeman was born on Dec. 5, 1936 in London. Following his Beatles work, he later photographed such figures as Muhammad Ali and Andy Warhol.

  • Sign up for the Best Classic Bands Newsletter

Best Classic Bands Staff
Share This:

1 Comment so far

Jump into a conversation
  1. Canute
    #1 Canute 9 November, 2019, 09:02

    He was a great photographer and this is a worthwhile tribute to his passing RIP Robert Freeman and thanks for the photos.

    Reply this comment

Your data will be safe!Your e-mail address will not be published. Also other data will not be shared with third person.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.