The Men Who Took The Photos

History and music of Liverpool

The Men Who Took The Photos

Postby (hamilton_square) » Sun May 27, 2018 5:34 pm

While we all know about the part that Astrid Kirchneer played in the Hamburg days of The Beatles. Have you ever wondered who were Astrid Kirchneer’s camera snapping opposite numbers back in those early Liverpool black and white times before fame and fortune came calling.

I daresay nearly everyone has seen, or is at least aware of, the series of iconic black and white photographs that exist of the embryonic Beatles audition for pop promoter and manager Larry Parnes at The Wyvern Social Club, Seel Street on Tuesday, 10th May 1960. But how many know who was holding the camera that day, or for that matter have ever heard of Cheniston “Chen” Roland?

Unlike Astrid Kirchneer, photography wasn’t Chen Roland’s all abiding passion; to him it was just a means of making a living – his one true love being the violin. But after some 6 years of study at Liverpool’s Matthey School of Music he could find little work so he went into business as a photographer opening a studio on Slater Street. I understand that on 10th May 1960 it was the presence of the local pop idol of the time, Billy Fury that lured Chen Roland and his camera to The Wyvern Social Club for a likely photo op. Instead, and unbeknown to him, he was to capture a series of seemingly anonymous images that have since become part of Beatles folklore.

By the time 1968 came around Chen Roland had more or less hung up his camera and was working as a branch manager for United Friendly, a life assurance company that specialised in providing saving products for working class households. However, he was never to give up his love for the violin as reported in this archived article from the Liverpool Echo …

Richard “Dick” Matthews, on the other hand, was never a professional photographer; to him it was a hobby. Reportedly, local promoter Sam Leach would use Dick Matthews’s skills with the camera at many of his shows. Some that featured The Beatles during their black leather wearing period following the group’s return to Liverpool from Hamburg. Matthews was also a friend of Allan Williams, who ran and owned The Jacaranda. It was there that he met and got to know Bill Harry who was some 10 years his junior. The two, together with Bill Harry’s wife-to-be Virginia, borrowed £50 from a generous benefactor and began a fortnightly magazine-newspaper focused on the emerging Liverpool club and group scene working out of a small office, above a wine merchants, on Renshaw Street. Mersey Beat, as it was known, was to sell 5,000 copies of the 6th July 1961 first edition (image below) …


It soon became a weekly publication that at its height was selling 75,000 copies over much of the North of England. But back in 1961-62 the operation was being run on a shoestring. The soon to be Mr and Mrs Harry working all hours on putting together copy and liaising with the printers and distribution outlets, while Dick Matthews was out and about with his cameras doing what he could, his day job permitting.

At the age of 80, Dick Matthews died in the month of November 2010 and as the Liverpool Echo noted at the time …

He never got the recognition he deserved for the images, some of which went on to become internationally famous.” – see …
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