Wednesday, July 28, 2010


The media is all a-twitter over the supposed "lost Ansel Adams negatives" that were found ten years ago in an LA garage sale. The expert panel report is here. Click on the link at lower left to view it. Having read it all and looked at the images I would deem it unlikely that they are some of Ansel's negatives. The experts engage in an unwarranted amount of speculation and circular reasoning. The handwriting expert says the handwriting on the envelopes is that of Virginia Adams even though it is known that she did not assist him in his studio. They speculate that she helped out in salvaging his negatives after the fire that destroyed a third of his negatives. That conclusion is in conflict with the family's denial that it is her writing based on several misspellings of place names  for which she would have known the proper spelling. Other members of the panel then proceed to make affirmative findings based on the handwriting analysis (it could be one of his and was in an envelop bearing her handwriting so it is one of his). The art expert is the most honest of the bunch saying at the outset that there is no way that it can be definitively stated that these are Ansel Adams negatives but then goes on to proclaim it highly probable.

What bothers me mostly is that Ansel is known to have been meticulous about his negatives. The speculation that he took a batch to Southern CA, deposited them in a warehouse then somehow forgot to retrieve them is a major stretch. They also make reference to the size being "unique" to him but the 6½x8½ Korona he used during that period was a production camera, not a custom sized one. A meteorologist on the team asserts that the 2 photos which they conclude "are identical" (despite being different views) were definitely taken on the same day based on the clouds and the snow on distant mountainsides. I see ordinary clouds that occur frequently and snow that is so far away (miles) that it is difficult to determine anything based on it. The supposition and speculation goes on throughout the report. All this so this guy who bought the negatives in an LA garage sale can sell "Ansel Adams" prints for big bucks.

Of course they aren't Ansel Adams prints and wouldn't be even if it could be proved conclusively that they were Ansel's negatives. They are prints by someone else from a negative that might maybe possibly have been made by Ansel and the real value of an AA original is not the negative anyway but the print that Ansel himself printed from his negatives. It smells like a hustle to me. They may be in for a lawsuit since Ansel left all rights to reproduction of his work to the Ansel Adams Trust and they 1) deny that it is his work and 2) have not given permission for prints to be marketed as Ansel Adams work even if the negatives could be proven to be Ansel's negatives. It's the same principle as you can't buy software, then duplicate the CD and sell copies. The guy may own the negatives but unless he also holds the copyright he can't print and distribute them.

Ironically there are genuine Ansel Adams negatives in the public domain, those he made under contract for the Park Service, and anyone can order prints from them at <> with absolute certainty that they are getting a print from a genuine Ansel Adams negative. They are quite reasonable too. Where the prints from these questionable negatives run from $1500 to $7500, prints from the genuine Adams negatives in the National Archives site can be had for $19.95 to $49.95. Why would any sensible collector pay such outrageous prices for a print of dubious attribution and provenance?

P.S. You can own an original Jim Bullard matted print for $35 including postage (within the continental US ). That is for a print on 8.5x11 paper, image size 9.75 on the long side with the aspect ratio depending on image. Square images are 8" square. I absolutely guarantee that they are genuine Jim Bullard photos. Email me (jim_dot_bullard_at_gmail_dot_com) for the price of larger sizes.

Addendum: I knew it... <>. The Jeffrey Pine photo she has is virtually the same as the alleged lost Ansel Adams and one of the waterfall photos she has (in the video) looks just like one of those Mr. Norsigian is selling on his website. Way to go Uncle Earl Brooks.

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