Unable to use Ansel Adams' name to sell Yosemite pictures, Rick Norsigian cuts prices
What’s in a name? In the case of Rick Norsigian’s famously disputed collection of vintage negatives of Yosemite, his agreement this week to refrain from using Ansel Adams' name to sell prints has yielded considerably sweeter deals for prospective buyers.
Last July, Norsigian began selling 18 images from the trove of “lost negatives” he had bought at a Fresno garage sale and concluded were previously missing 1920s and 1930s works by the great nature photographer. His asking price was $7,500 for hand-developed gelatin silver prints and $1,500 for digital prints, offered in limited editions of 50 and 250, respectively.
In the wake of a legal settlement announced this week, in which Norsigian agreed not to use the Adams name in selling his pictures, the price has tumbled to $800 for gelatin silver and $600 for digital, sold in limited editions of 100 each.
The website says that a separate "collector's edition" of gelatin silver prints numbering 15 per image has sold out; it was unclear whether or how those differed from the larger edition initially offered.
Arnold Peter, Norsigian's attorney and head of a firm that's his marketing partner, declined to comment Thursday.
Norsigian’s sales come with a disclaimer posted on his website, as required in the legal settlement: In selling the pictures, he makes "no representation or warranty of authenticity as a work of Ansel Adams.”
A second website disclaimer was added Thursday to the authentication report that Norsigian first posted in July to present the evidence for his claim. The report that previously had been titled “The Lost Negatives of Ansel Adams” is now “The Lost Negatives.”
Its subtitle continues to characterize the Norsigian find as “65 glass negatives created by Ansel Adams,” but there’s an asterisk that guides readers to a disclaimer at the bottom of the title page: The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust, which sued last August to stop Norsigian from using Adams’ name in his sales effort, “does not in any way support the proposition that the … negatives … were created by Ansel Adams. Further, this report is not intended for marketing, promotional or other commercial purposes.”
A key quote in the report comes from the art expert that Norsigian hired, Robert Moeller: “After more than six months of close study, it is my opinion, within a high degree of probability, that the images under consideration were produced by Ansel Adams.”
There's no asterisk to indicate that Moeller, a former curator of European art who advises private art collectors, changed his mind less than a month after the report's publication. He publicly embraced a competing theory that had emerged after Norsigian began selling his pictures -– that the negatives were taken not by Adams but by Earl Brooks, who grew up in Fresno and later established himself as a portrait photographer in Delaware.
-- Mike Boehm
Photos: Rick Norsigian with one of his negatives; Ansel Adams' 1960 photo, "Moon and Half Dome, Yosemite National Park." Credits: Robert Durell/ For The Times (Norsigian); Ansel Adams / Courtesy the Polaroid Collection (Moon and Half Dome).