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Remembering Robert Freeman Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

12 November 2019

The English photographer and graphic designer Robert Freeman passed away last Thursday.

Freeman created some of the most famous images of the Beatles, including the album covers for With The Beatles, A Hard Day's Night, Beatles For Sale, Help! and Rubber Soul.

A post on The Beatles Web site noted:

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

After graduating from Cambridge in 1959, Freeman freelanced as a photojournalist for The Sunday Times, among other magazines. In 1963, he shot the first Pirelli calendar and later was on assignment in Moscow to photograph Khrushchev.

"But my favorite assignment during that period," he once said, "was photographing John Coltrane and other jazz musicians at a festival in London. It was photographs of these musicians that I later showed to the Beatles."

He put together a portfolio of portraits of jazz musicians like Cannonball Adderley, Dizzy Gillespie, Elvin Jones, Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane to show Brian Epstein, their manager. Epstein liked his work and he got the job.

Among the more famous covers was With the Beatles, the second album the group put out. Freeman took the shot on Aug. 22, 1963 in the Palace Court Hotel in Bournemouth, England.

Freeman explained the graphic design issue, "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 was also the shortest."

Paul McCartney remembered the photo session:

He arranged us in a hotel corridor: it was very un-studio-like. The corridor was very dark and there was a window at the end and by using this heavy source of natural light coming from the right, he got that very moody picture which most people think he must have worked at forever and ever. But it was only an hour. He sat down, took a couple of rolls and that was it.

Freeman's cover shot for the Rubber Soul album distorted the image to make it look as if it were rubber. McCartney recalls seeing the image for the first time:

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.... 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.

Freeman was married to the former Sonny Spielhagen, a Pirelli calendar girl, in the 1960s. They had two children. He later married author Tiddy Rowan with whom he had a daughter.

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