Negatives worth a fortune, but family smells a rat

FRESNO, California: Old glass negatives bought by a painter for $US45 at a garage sale a decade ago have been authenticated as the work of the photographer Ansel Adams and are worth at least $US200 million ($223 million), the owner’s lawyer says.However, the family of the photographer, who died in 1984, is sceptical about the claims, with one associate saying it was an ”unfortunate fraud”.Rick Norsigian, 64, a painter and antiques collector, said that after he bought the glass negatives he noticed they resembled Adams’s photographs of Yosemite National Park.A lawyer for Mr Norsigian, Arnold Peter, said a team of experts he had assembled had concluded the 65 negatives were from Adams’s early work, which had been believed destroyed in a fire in 1937.”These photographs are really the missing link,” Mr Peter said. ”They really fill the void in Ansel Adams’s early career.”Adams is best known for his striking black-and-white photographs, mainly landscapes of the American west.An art appraiser, David Streets, conservatively estimated the negatives’ value at $US200 million, based on current sales of Adams prints and the potential for selling reproductions.One of the experts, Patrick Alt, said he believed the glass plates were shot by Adams because ”there was no one else other than Ansel in that time period doing this quality of work”.But not everyone is convinced. Matthew Adams, the photographer’s grandson and president of the Ansel Adams Gallery, said there is ”no absolute proof as to who did take them”.Mr Norsigian’s lawyer said handwriting experts had identified writing on the negative sleeves as that of Adams’s wife, Virginia. But Matthew Adams said there were inconsistencies in the handwriting and a lot of misspelled Yosemite place names.”She grew up in Yosemite. She was an intelligent, well-read woman. I find it hard to believe she would misspell those names,” he said.”It’s an unfortunate fraud,” said Bill Turnage, managing director of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust. He said he was consulting lawyers about suing Mr Norsigian for using a copyrighted name for commercial purposes.Tribune Media Services,Associated Press
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