U.S. painter's find of Ansel Adams negatives in dispute

Tue Jul 27, 2010 11:23pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - A school district painter appeared to have struck lucky after 65 glass negatives he bought for $45 at a garage sale were judged the work of American nature photographer Ansel Adams valued at $200 million, but Adams' family has cast doubt on the find.

Rick Norsigian bought the negatives at a garage sale in Fresno, California, about 10 years ago, bargaining the seller down from $70.

He kept them under a pool table at his home initially and then in a safe deposit box at a local bank when he realized they might be valuable.

His hunch appeared to have been right and the negatives, showing black and white images of Yosemite National Park, Fisherman's Wharf and other scenes in San Francisco, were this week declared by a Beverly Hills art appraiser to be the work of Adams and worth around $200 million.

"When I heard that (figure), I got a little weak," Norsigian told reporters.

However the head of the Ansel Adams Gallery, Matthew Adams, who is the late photographer's grandson, was skeptical of the claim, and said in a statement that he was not convinced after being presented with evidence by Norsigian's team last year.

"I think it's irresponsible to claim that they're Ansel's. We think it's a very significant claim and we think it's not accurate," he told AOL News,

Bill Turnage, managing trustee of Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust, called the Norsigian negatives a "scam."

Norsigian, who has set up a website for the negatives www.lostnegatives.com, said a team of experts spent about a year authenticating the negatives and believed the compositions were taken between 1919 and the early 1930s.   Continued...