Curator Cancels Ansel Adams Authentication Claim

1 September 2010

SAN FRANCISCO – Though entrepreneur Rick Norsigian continues to argue that photographic negatives he purchased at a California garage sale are the work of famed American photographer Ansel Adams, the evidence supporting that stance is quickly unraveling. One of the experts that had authenticated the works, former Museum of Fine Arts, Boston curator Robert C. Moeller III, has recanted his previous assessment, telling the New York Times that at least some of the photographs were taken by another man, Earl Brooks. Norsigian has been working with a team of lawyers to sell prints of the negatives, which he says are worth $200 million.

"Maybe I kind of wanted them to be Ansel Adams," Moeller told the Times, saying that he changed his mind after viewing a series of prints owned by Brooks’s niece, given to her by her late uncle, that matched pictures that Norsigian says are by Adams. "It didn’t take me long to say they were same camera, same time, same man," Moeller admitted. "My report, which said there was a high probability that Ansel Adams took the photos, has got to change." Still, Moeller is alone in his change of heart: the Times notes that no other experts have yet withdrawn their authentication claim, despite the new evidence.

A lawyer for Norsigian disputed Moeller’s new stance, saying that, since Brooks’s niece does not possess the original negatives, there is no evidence that her uncle actually photographed the scenes of mountains and forests that have been attributed to Adams. The lawyer also pointed to the fact that a meteorologist hired by a group marketing the photos has stated that the weather patterns visible in the park match those seen in other works definitively made by Adams.

Moeller’s switch is not the only new problem that Norsigian and his team have to contend with. The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust has also filed a suit in federal court alleging that Norsigian’s business infringes trademarks that it owns.

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