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Thread: Gallery owner arrested for forged and stolen Ansel Adams photographs

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  1. #1

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    Gallery owner arrested for forged and stolen Ansel Adams photographs

    Read about this at another site (linked below)

    https://www.diyphotography.net/galle...s-photographs/

    This got me thinking about how easy/difficult it would be to forge photographs these days. I say this, since the use of "real" photographic paper is in serious decline, and many of the old "classic" photographic papers are no longer even being made.

    Is it possible to chemically/physically differentiate photographic papers from the past century from current papers?

  2. #2

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    Re: Gallery owner arrested for forged and stolen Ansel Adams photographs

    It has happened. In the early 2000s, the well-known photographer Walter Rosenblum was found to have sold photographs allegedly by Lewis Hine; the fraud was exposed when it was found that the "Hine" prints had been made on modern photo paper. IIRC conservators found optical brightening agents in the "Hine" prints that did not exist in his time. So the answer to your last question is yes. The whole story was published in the photo press and as they say, "You could look it up".
    Of course replacing original photos with offset lithographs (posters or calendar images), as is alleged in the case you've mentioned, is another story entirely.

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    Re: Gallery owner arrested for forged and stolen Ansel Adams photographs

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sampson View Post
    It has happened. In the early 2000s, the well-known photographer Walter Rosenblum was found to have sold photographs allegedly by Lewis Hine; the fraud was exposed when it was found that the "Hine" prints had been made on modern photo paper. IIRC conservators found optical brightening agents in the "Hine" prints that did not exist in his time. So the answer to your last question is yes. The whole story was published in the photo press and as they say, "You could look it up".
    Of course replacing original photos with offset lithographs (posters or calendar images), as is alleged in the case you've mentioned, is another story entirely.
    Thanks, I hadn't thought of optical brighteners, but that's a good one. I'm trying to remember if some paper makers put product names or marks on the back. I think Kodak and Fuji did for color paper, but not sure for B&W.

  4. #4
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    Re: Gallery owner arrested for forged and stolen Ansel Adams photographs

    Here's an article from the Atlantic on the Hine/Rosenblum affair - it has some information on how the analysis came about and how it was pursued:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine...-thing/302751/

    The article notes that in addition to analyzing brand marks on the back and OBAs it's also possible to analyze paper fibers, and mentions the expertise of this firm:

    https://ipstesting.com/our-services/...per-forensics/

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    Re: Gallery owner arrested for forged and stolen Ansel Adams photographs

    Quote Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
    Here's an article from the Atlantic on the Hine/Rosenblum affair - it has some information on how the analysis came about and how it was pursued:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine...-thing/302751/

    The article notes that in addition to analyzing brand marks on the back and OBAs it's also possible to analyze paper fibers, and mentions the expertise of this firm:

    https://ipstesting.com/our-services/...per-forensics/
    .
    Thanks for the links. That was a fascinating read on the Hine/Rosenblum affair. The whole affair definitely isn't black and white, it's an subtle murky grey. It makes you think about what a photograph really is, and does one person actually control it in all cases. The work of Vivian Maier comes to mind here. I recall the words of Ansel Adams in a video I watched a few days ago, where he talked about his photos being like a musical piece whose interpretation may change over time, just as he printed his photos differently over time.

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    Re: Gallery owner arrested for forged and stolen Ansel Adams photographs

    Thank you Oren, that was the article I was thinking of. Hope I wasn't too inaccurate.

  7. #7

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    Re: Gallery owner arrested for forged and stolen Ansel Adams photographs

    Itís simple task for any paper coservationist just because paper producing industry went throgh dramatic change in the end of XX century.What fits offset printing doesnít fit lithography based printing machines. Books, published 50 years ago are much more comfortable to read.
    Nice example - the last Díagostini book, printed with laser printer on cheap semiglossy paper.

  8. #8
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Gallery owner arrested for forged and stolen Ansel Adams photographs

    Perhaps not photos alone, but I recall FBI stings on entire "gallery rows". Cheating artists and scamming buyers is awfully commonplace, especially in "tourist trap" locatons. It's really not hard to spot fakes or unauthorized restrikes of photos if they were of the kind very finely darkroom printed to begin with, or conversely, if they simply look too clean to be era vintage. But the general public rarely has the kind of specific experience to recognize that kind of thing. Many a gallery crook has gone from rags to riches, and then inevitably back to rags.

  9. #9
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    Re: Gallery owner arrested for forged and stolen Ansel Adams photographs

    It's surprising there aren't more "in the style of" being sold as the real thing. So many people do similar things, sometimes there's people pulling a fast one.

  10. #10

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    Re: Gallery owner arrested for forged and stolen Ansel Adams photographs

    Art forgeries have been being made for centuries. It's only when the values rise up sky-high that a) it's worth the effort to forge a work, and b) it's worth the cost to track down a forgery. Conservators and image scientists don't come cheap. And of course conservation and image science are relatively new disciplines; until the recent past (and even today) the "connoisseur's eye" was how pictures and art works were authenticated.
    The culture of the time plays a part, too; we as a culture see different things in an artwork at different times in history. There's a fine book by Edward Dolnick, "The Forger's Spell". It tells the story of Hans Van Megeeren, whose really terrible imitation Vermeers were widely accepted as real for many years. Yet looking at those forgeries today, none of us would think that they were by that mysterious Dutch master. So do your homework, friends, before you buy that "Adams" or "Weston".

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