BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – A trove of old glass negatives bought at a garage sale for $45 has been authenticated as the lost work of Ansel Adams and worth at least $200 million, an attorney for the owner said Tuesday, but the iconic photographer’s representatives dismissed the claim as a fraud and said they’re worthless.
Arnold Peter, who represents Fresno painter and construction worker Rick Norsigian, said a team of experts who studied the 65 negatives over the past six months concluded “beyond a reasonable doubt” the photos were Adams’ early work, believed to have been destroyed in a 1937 fire at his Yosemite National Park studio.
Adams is renown for his black-and-white photographs of the American West. He died in 1984 at 82.
Norsigian, who works for the Fresno Unified School District, is planning to capitalize on his discovery. He’s set up a website to sell prints made from 17 negatives. A documentary on his quest to have the negatives authenticated is in the works, as well as a touring exhibition at Fresno State University in October.
Representatives of Adams, however, said they’re not buying Norsigian’s claims.
“It’s an unfortunate fraud,” said Bill Turnage, managing director of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust.
Turnage said he’s consulting lawyers about possibly suing Norsigian.
Adams’ grandson, Matthew Adams, who heads the Ansel Adams Gallery in San Francisco, said he reviewed Norsigian’s authentications last fall and thinks they’re stretches.
The key evidence from a team of experts hired by Peter came from two handwriting experts, who identified the writing on the negative sleeves as that of Adams’ wife, Virginia.
But Matthew Adams said there were inconsistencies and misspellings.