Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Lost" Ansel Adams Negatives Bought at Garage Sale for $45


Ten years ago, Rick Norsigian was at a garage sale in California and picked up two small boxes of various items. The seller wanted $70 for the two boxes, Norsigian offered $45. The seller accepted.

Ever since, Norsigian has been trying to convince everyone he met that the 65 glass negatives that were contained in the boxes were shot by Ansel Adams in the early '20s and that they were of scenes the famed photographer never printed–negatives that were thought to have been destroyed in a darkroom fire in 1937.

Well, Norsigian finally succeeded, sort of. Experts have "authenticated" the glass negatives as belonging to Ansel Adams. They are indeed scenes the photographer had never printed they say and could be worth as much as $200 million, if genuine.

But are they? According to the Matthew Adams, Ansel's grandson and head of the Ansel Adams Gallery, writing on a gallery blog, they probably aren't. And the "experts" who have authenticated the plates got it wrong.

Photography expert Patrick Alt, who helped confirm the "authenticity" of the negatives, thinks Adams carried the negatives with him to use in a photography class he was teaching in Pasadena, California, in the early 1940s.

"It is my belief that he brought these negatives with him for teaching purposes and to show students how to not let their negatives be engulfed in a fire," Alt told CNN. "I think this clearly explains the range of work in these negatives, from very early pictorialist boat pictures, to images not as successful, to images of the highest level of his work during this time period."

Norsigian plans to sell prints made form the negatives to museums and collectors.

However, the "experts" may not be so expert after all. Apparently they are not actually Ansel Adams' photos, but Uncle Earl's.

Oakland resident Mariam L. Walton saw a picture of the famous Jeffrey Pine on Sentinal Dome at Yosemite during a report about the photos on a local news station and said she immediately recognized the image as one taken by her uncle, Earl Brooks, back in 1923.

Read her story here.

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