Although Man Ray used his artistic talents to explore an uncharted world of surrealistic photography before anyone else, when I compare his work to the ingenuity, madness, outrageousness, and humor in Gescheidt’s, I always think of Man Ray as a “second-class Gescheidt.”
– Howard Chapnick, Black Star photo agency*
The Father of Photoshop”
Long before Photoshop reigned supreme in the world of photography, before personal computers dominated modern life, Alfred Gescheidt was creating hundreds of wildly inventive new images in his chemical darkroom in Manhattan. His wild imagination and ground-breaking techniques in the darkroom made him a go-to guy on Madison Avenue. He was the real deal, an original Mad Man. More than likely, you’ve seen his imaginative, mind-bending creations, a part of American and European culture, via mass media, and didn’t know they were made by Alfred Gescheidt.
Gescheidt (1926 – 2012), pronounced “geh-SHITE,” was a working professional photographer all his adult life, from his early 20s until he died at age 85. He was born and bred and lived almost his entire life in New York City. At the end of the 20th century, he become known as “the father of Photoshop” because he pioneered and popularized photographic montage and image manipulation techniques that the famous Adobe program would simplify for the masses and therefore popularize in the next century.
He won a scholarship to the Art Students’ League in NYC and studied with Will Barnet and Harry Sternberg. He served briefly in the Navy during World War II, then went to the University of New Mexico on the G.I. bill and studied with Raymond Johnson.
He fell in love with the medium of photography and transferred to the Los Angeles Art Center School and studied with George Hoyningen-Huene. In the 1950s he documented life on New York City streets and beaches, and simultaneously was exploring and developing his signature creative style.
His work first appeared in Life magazine in 1951, when he was only 25 years old, and again in August, 1970, with a two-page Life Magazine spread. In the 1970s, for three years, the erotic Oui magazine published a column, “Gescheidt’s World” featuring his in-demand, signature photomontage work, with a sexual twist.
You’ve likely seen his photomontages, without knowing they sprang from Alfred Gescheidt’s mind. They’ve appeared over the decades on the covers of hundreds of record albums, books, calendars, posters, greeting cards, postcards, and in magazines and newspapers throughout the US and Europe, including: Collier’s, Cue, Esquire, Ladies’ Home Journal, Life, Look, Mademoiselle, Modern Photography, The National Enquirer, New York, Newsweek, Omni, Oui, Pageant, Parade, People, Popular Photography, Saturday Evening Post, Stern, The National Star, The New York Times, This Week, Time, TV Guide, Woman’s Day, and Women’s Home Companion.
Gescheidt had an eye for both the humor and sublime details in everyday life, making classic documentary “street” photographs in his beloved hometown, New York City, and for original, iconoclastic invention in the darkroom.
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