The Norsigian Negatives

July, 2010 | Categories: | Comments: 0


I have followed the story of the "discovery" and attempted authentication by Rick Norsigian of 65 "lost Ansel Adams glass negatives" with bemused interest for some time. I now feel compelled to say something about the turn of events culminating in the July 27, 2010 media event and press conference (Google it - I'm not providing a link to this). Compelled, not because I feel I have any standing of importance, but because I developed this site specifically to keep the light burning for the fine art photographic silver print.

Norsigian has retained his own "experts" to authenticate the negatives despite the fact that none of the Adams family, the Ansel Adams Trust, nor anyone who actually worked with Adams has corroborated. For me, this is the least significant part of the story. I simply have no dog in the fight as to whether the negatives were actually Adams' or not.

Rather, Norsigian has leapfrogged over the issue by having inkjet posters (oh, sorry - prints) and silver prints made with the cachet of being Adam's prints. Even if the negatives could be proved to be Adams' work, and they have not, Adams himself obviously decided that they were not worth printing, as no prints existed prior to Norsigian's. Many of Adam's negatives, both glass and film, do exist. Adams was known as a fine art printer of photographs, an interpreter of the negative as he created them. The print is the object de art, not the negative. Funny thing, I've never had anyone offer me anything for a negative, but I do have a few blank canvasses from DaVinci and Vermeer left, in case anyone's interested.

One wonders at the motivations of the Norsigian's "experts", but the old advice from Watergate must surely apply - follow the money. There is much dishonesty involved here, both intellectual and possibly legal. This is nothing more than a kind of artistic, necrophilic rape of the artist, folks. I am saying these things outright because to remain silent is to otherwise participate in a kind of moral relevance from which recovery of true meaning becomes impossible.

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