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Ansel Adams controversy: Norsigian’s photo expert says $200-million claim is `crap’

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A healthy helping of skepticism is useful when delving into an art-authentication controversy. That hasn’t always been the case when it comes to the telling of the saga of Rick Norsigian and his purported $200 million worth of ‘lost’ Ansel Adams negatives.

The first news report on Norsigian’s claim arrived -- albeit a tad credulous -- before he and the Beverly Hills law firm that’s helping him market prints of the images had made the announcement at a news conference on July 27.

It shortly emerged that Adams’ heirs and the keepers of his copyrights weren’t buying it, despite what Norsigian’s team said was conclusive proof based on an expert examination. Soon another contender, ‘Uncle Earl’ Brooks, had emerged as the man who might have shot those old-fashioned glass-plate negatives.

And now, many are agreeing that the $200-million claim that helped generate all the attention was silly from the get-go. Among them are Norsigian’s two key authenticators, Robert C. Moeller III and Patrick Alt, who said Wednesday that the figure from appraiser David W. Streets was ‘rather puzzling’ (Moeller) and ‘the biggest bunch of crap I’ve heard in my life’ (Alt).

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Both stand by their opinions that the negatives are by Ansel Adams, although Alt, the photography expert, now describes it as formative, rather than mature Adams: ‘He was in his 20s, he was a puppy when he was doing this work, and you can see the beginnings of his extraordinary vision and sensibility.’

For the full story, click here.-- Mike Boehm

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