In the Spanish Civil War Herbert Gehr worked as a stills photographer before travelling to Egypt at the wars commencement where he shot newsreels for Wide World photos. With the advent of Nazism in his native Germany, he moved to the United States in March 1937. Upon arrival in the United States, Herbert Gehr found representation with the Black Star photo agency, and began working for Life magazine in 1938, photographing a large variety of subjects and stories for them over the next few years.
Herbert Gehr left Life in 1950 and became a television director for ABC. In July 1950, shortly after leaving Life, he accidentally shot his wife dead. In search of evidence of his adultery, Gehr's wife had unexpectedly arrived in the middle of the night at his country house near Brewster, New York with detectives, while Herbert Gehr was with his mistress. Mistaking the visitors for prowlers, his shooting also injured two of the four detectives present. His mistress leapt out of a window. Herbert Gehr was arrested and stood trial for second degree murder, and was acquitted.
Herbert Gehr changed his name after the trial. At the conclusion of the case the jurors blamed Gehr's case on the divorce laws of New York state, as his wife had been seeking evidence for his adultery, which was required by law. Herbert Gehr resumed his work as a television director after his trial.