Ansel Adams Lost Picture Claim Turns Negative

Tuesday, Aug 24, 2010  |  Updated 9:25 AM PDT
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Ansel Adams Lost Picture Claim Turns Negative

AP

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The Ansel Adams Publishing Trust is suing a Fresno man for selling prints and posters under the name of the famed nature photographer.

The case filed in San Francisco is the latest salvo in a dispute over a trove of glass negatives bought at a garage sale by Rick Norsigian and purported to be Adams' lost work.

Ten years ago, Fresno painter, Rick Norsigian, stumbled upon a trove of 65 old glass negatives that he says have been authenticated as the work of famed nature photographer Ansel Adams, possibly worth $200 million.

Norsigian's lawyer Arnold Peter said a team of experts who studied the negatives over the past six months concluded "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the photos were Adams' early work, and they were believed to have been destroyed in a 1937 fire at his Yosemite National Park studio.

But Adams' family has denied the claim since the start.

Adams is renown for his timeless black-and-white photographs of the American West, which were produced with darkroom techniques that heightened shadows and contrasts to create mood-filled landscape portraits. The San Francisco-native died in 1984 at 82.

His photographs today are widely reproduced on calendars, posters and in coffee-table books. His prints are coveted by collectors.

Yosemite National Park fetched $722,500 for Ansel print "Clearing Winter Storm" at an auction last month in New York, a record for 20th century photography.

Norsigian, who works for the Fresno Unified School District, is already planning to capitalize on his discovery. He's set up a website to sell prints made from 17 negatives from $45 for a poster to $7,500 for a darkroom print with a certificate of authenticity.

A documentary on his quest to have the negatives authenticated is in the works, as well as a touring exhibition that will debut at Fresno State University in October.

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