Who – or what – is Mad Man Alfred?

Although Man Ray [world renowned surrealist, modernist artist/photographer] 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*

IMG_7312_rev_1000p_HORIZ                                                                                                          All photographs this page © Alfred Gescheidt

“The Father of Photoshop” 

Alfred_X2_on_own_lapLong 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.

A long, illustrious career

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 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.

Career Bio, in brief

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.

IMG_6222_revHis 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 U.S. 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.

“[Alfred Gescheidt is] The Charlie Chaplin of the camera.” – former Life Magazine picture editor John Durniak

*QUOTE atop page by Howard Chapnick, Black Star photography agency owner, “Truth Needs No Ally,” The University of Missouri Press, 1994

 • Art Critic John Haber on Alfred Gescheidt: http://www.haberarts.com/gescheid.htm

• The photography of Alfred Gescheidt is represented by The Higher Pictures Gallery, 980 Madison Ave. NY,  NY  10075, 212-249-6100: HigherPictures.com

For additional information or for inquiries about the work or estate of Alfred Gescheidt, email Jack(AT)MadManAlfred.com

Bad Day at the Beach, Photograph © the estate of Alfred Gescheidt

Bad Day at the Beach, Photograph © the estate of Alfred Gescheidt