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Thread: "Ansel Adams" plates found at garage sale

  1. #1
    Dave Karp
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    "Ansel Adams" plates found at garage sale

    There is an interesting story in the LA Times about a man who found some glass plate negatives for 75 cents each, and who is convinced they were made by Ansel Adams. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la...home-headlines

    The story mentions a discussion with Adams's assistant at the time of his darkroom fire, who said that he does not remember any glass plates damaged in the fire. Not to take sides, because I have no way of knowing whether they are AA's or not, but wasn't "Monolith" made on a glass plate? It was one of the negatives damaged in the fire.

    People sometimes get caught up in quests of the type described in the article. Apparently it is causing tension with his wife, and it has cost him a lot of money. Of course, if they are AA's glass plates, then they are probably worth lots more.

  2. #2

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    Re: Interesting story in LA Times

    It is an interesting article. I got the impression after reading it this morning that the plates were not taken by Ansel; there were just too many experts and people that worked with him in the early years saying they were not, and not a single one saying they thought they were. It was especially telling when his early assistant stated that Ansel would not have composed the way some of these photos were taken, and his son said the handwriting was not his.
    I wonder who did take them; another early Ansel Adams-like photographer who ended up unknown.

  3. #3
    tim atherton's Avatar
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    Re: Interesting story in LA Times

    yet there's also the common hint from the experts that these weren't good enough to be Adams - yet like all photographers, he took some really crappy pictures - especially in his early years. I've also just been looking through tons of his manzanar pictures - there's an awful lot of duffers in there too.
    You'd be amazed how small the demand is for pictures of trees... - Fred Astaire to Audrey Hepburn

    www.photo-muse.blogspot.com blog

  4. #4

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    Re: Interesting story in LA Times

    He's sick of weak-willed experts, their hopeful words in private melting away in public. "I'm 100% certain, no matter what they feel," Norsigian said. "I've got all this evidence."
    I found the story a little saddening - how the fruit of his labour is divisiveness between himself and his wife; how the obsession with the belief that he holds Ansel Adams' work has to be true, and if an expert refutes this, then Norsigian seems to slide into conspiracy theory & paranoia, and on another tangent journey to find someone else to back him up.

    This is all the more impressive from a man who claims to have known nothing about photography before he purchased the collection of plates.

    Page after page yielded coincidences.

    Adams, who was born in San Francisco in 1902, worked early in his career with 6 1/2-by-8 1/2-inch glass-plate negatives just like the ones Norsigian had found.
    For a "blue collar worker" who knew nothing about photography to suddenly decide that a whole plate collection of negatives shot in 1902, had to be the work of Adams is a little extreme. Whole plate photography was universal in 1902 - anyone who's seen plate photographs and ceremonies of Queen Victoria's death in 1901 in England will know that.

    If Norsigian was gracious enough to loan the plates to a public gallery, then his journey (and spiralling costs) might be a turning point in his diminishing returns.

  5. #5

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    Re: Interesting story in LA Times

    Seems fingerprint analysis might be the way to go about this if he really cares about it?

  6. #6

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    Re: Interesting story in LA Times

    What a wonderful story, David. Thanks for posting it.
    At last, photography may have an "attributed to Ansel Adams," like the old paintings..."attributed to" one old master or another.
    I wish him luck.
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

  7. #7
    Dave Karp
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    Re: Interesting story in LA Times

    "Seems fingerprint analysis might be the way to go . . . ."

    Apparently they tried it. No luck.

    The sad thing about the story is that most likely the quest is ultimately about money. If those plates are AA's, then they are worth a lot of $$. If the result so far is failure, anxiety, dissatisfaction, mistrust, and marital discord, then that is the real shame.

  8. #8
    Format Omnivore Brian C. Miller's Avatar
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    Re: Interesting story in LA Times

    The photos look nice, but I don't think they are Adam's. The LA Time's photo #5 has a road in it, and I don't think Adams would have framed it that way. The photo #7 in the guy's hand (attached) doesn't like Adams.

    I wonder if these were from Albert Bender, the guy who owned a 1926 Buick and was Adam's road buddy. Consider it: who else photographs their car?

  9. #9

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    Re: Interesting story in LA Times

    To me, the question might be what is the quality of the images, regardless of who made them. If they are of the quality associated with Adams, maybe there is a great unknown photographer waiting to be discovered.

  10. #10

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    Re: Interesting story in LA Times

    Another interesting detail comparing photos #1 (real Adams) and #4 (unknown). Judging by the height of the trees at the top of the cliff, especially the pine tree closest to the fall and accounting for the difference in angle of view, it would seem they were taken at approximately the same time, give or take a couple of years or so.

    If so, Brian may be on to something wondering about Bender...

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