In front of almost 100 members of the Wisconsin News Photographers Association at their 2012 Convention, retired Milwaukee Sentinel Director of Photography Sherman Gessert, accepted the 2012 Robert H. Dumke Award.
“Seeing the crowd in the gallery standing and applauding an old guy like me was an experience I will never forget,” Gessert later said. “I’ve had many awards in the past, but none are as valued as this one.”
Gessert was born in Milwaukee in 1935. A Menomonee Falls High School and Layton School of Art graduate, he started at the Milwaukee Sentinel (a Hearst newspaper at the time) in August 1956 as a replacement for draftee, Pat Canon. In 1958, Canon returned to his job and Gessert found employment at the Menomonee Falls News until 1959 when he was rehired by the Sentinel. He became Director of Photography in 1991 and retired in 1995.
Gessert is a past-president of WNPA. He held that position in 1965 when the organization was still the Wisconsin Press Photographers Association. He was Photographer of the Year in 1962, inducted into the Milwaukee Press Club Hall of Fame in 1999, and inducted into the Menomonee Falls High School Hall of Fame for Fine Arts in 2007.
Gessert traveled to more than two dozen countries for his work, including Timbuktu. He photographed figures including Golda Meir, Dr. Christian Barnard, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gov. John Connally, Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, Capt. James Lovell, Jr., countless movie stars, fashion designers, U.S. presidents and first ladies.
As Director of Photography, Gessert helped usher the Sentinel into the digital age. After much deliberation, the Sentinel purchased its first digital camera: a hybrid Kodak/Nikon digital camera with a price tag of almost $25,000. Also purchased were three Apple computers and three Kodak film scanners. It made the Sentinel one of the first newspapers in the Midwest to use digital photography.