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Norsigian/Adams Controversy

Photocritic International Covers the Saga of “The Lost Negatives of Ansel Adams”

Collector Rick Norsigian. Image courtesy of Rick Norsigian.

Collector Rick Norsigian. Image courtesy of Rick Norsigian.

On July 27, 2010, Fresno, CA public-school employee Rick Norsigian and a team of “experts” went public with the claim that 65 glass-plate negatives Norsigian acquired in 2000 at a yard sale for $45 represented “The Lost Negatives of Ansel Adams,” worth $200 million. This sensational news quickly circulated internationally.

Learning of this while on a sojourn in China, I began to track, investigate, and comment on this story as it developed. This coverage continues. Links to and synopses of pertinent posts in this blog, which in turn contain links to relevant documents, news stories, and other related information, can be found below in chronological order, with the most recent first:

• David W. Streets . . . He’s Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaack! (May 29th, 2011). In which I comment on the impish antics of Team Norsigian’s designated appraiser, the irrepressible ex-felon turned Beverly Hills gallerist, and his remarkable ability to make lemonade from the lemons of his life.

Team Norsigian Accentuates the Negative (20) (April 24th, 2011). In which I weigh the post-settlement behavior of the Adams Herd and Team Norsigian, concluding that the latter doesn’t seem to have a commitment to living up to either the letter or the spirit of that agreement.

Norsigian/Adams: Game Over? (March 15th, 2011). In which I break and ponder the news that the Adams Trust and Team Norsigian have asked the Federal District Court of Northern California to dismiss their respective suit and countersuit. I then offer a series of prognostications about future developments in this story.

• Norsigian/Adams: Halftime Show (1) (February 25th, 2011). In which I take a breather, since the story seems to come to a temporary halt, though not without entertaining diversions: Brooke Delarco, advocate of the “Uncle” Earl Brooks theory, busted in Pennsylvania with 5 kilos of pot. Plus further consideration of six decades of Ansel Adams’s most-favored-photographer status at Yosemite National Park.

• Cowflop from the Adams Herd (5) (February 9th, 2011). In which I continue my scrutiny of falsehoods promulgated by William “Wild Bill” Turnage, Managing Trustee of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust, concentrating on those embedded in his previously secret email exchange with the Center for Creative Photography and the University of Arizona-Tucson.

• Cowflop from the Adams Herd (4) (February 6th, 2011). In which I examine in detail a variety of patent untruths promulgated by William “Wild Bill” Turnage, Managing Trustee of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust. Plus a brief discussion of the absence of  coverage of this story from the press in Tucson, home of the Center for Creative Photography.

Team Norsigian Accentuates the Negative (19) (January 23, 2011). In which I discuss the expansion of Team Norsigian’s countersuit against the Adams Trust to include the University of Arizona, charging slander, defamation, trade libel, and illegal civil conspiracy.

• Adams Authentication and the CCP (3) (December 27, 2010). In which I continue my inquiry into exactly how and when the Center for Creative Photography got into the business of authenticating Ansel Adams material. With consideration of how this disclosure got planted in a story by a cub reporter published by the obscure Arizona Daily Wildcat, and what questions she didn’t know to ask.

• Adams Authentication and the CCP (2) (December 22, 2010). In which I continue my inquiry into exactly how and when the Center for Creative Photography got into the business of authenticating Ansel Adams material as a public service, and who’s responsible for that change in the CCP’s mission statement and policies. With consideration of how this issue pertains to the new lawsuit against the Adams Trust charging slander and conspiracy filed by Team Norsigian.

• Adams Authentication and the CCP (1) (December 14, 2010). In which I begin my inquiry into exactly how and when, post-Y2K, the Center for Creative Photography got into the business of authenticating Ansel Adams material as a public service, and who’s responsible for that change in the CCP’s mission statement and policies.

• The CCP and I (December 1, 2010). In which I outline my long-term professional relationship with the Center for Creative Photography, and describe my first-hand experience there during a 1996-97 residency.

• On the Subject of William Turnage: An Open Letter to the Trustees of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust (November 25, 2010). In which I call for the resignation of Turnage as Managing Trustee of the Adams Trust, due to his blackmailing of the Center for Creative Photography and the University of Arizona-Tucson to take sides, inappropriately, in the Trust’s dispute with Team Norsigian.

• Team Norsigian Accentuates the Negative (18) (November 22, 2010). In which I introduce the Chicago team claiming that Arthur C. Pillsbury is the most likely author of the Norsigian negatives; discuss newly published material on Earl Brooks, another candidate; report on the progress of “The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust v. PRS Media Partners, LLC et al”; and urge Manny Medrano, Team Norsigian’s “evidence and burden-of-proof expert,” to come out of hiding and explain his position.

• Team Norsigian Accentuates the Negative (17) (November 18, 2010). In which I contemplate the quality of the journalistic coverage of this story, and congratulate my colleagues Reyhan Harmanci, Culture Editor/Writer at the Bay Citizen, and Mike Boehm of the Los Angeles Times, for their substantial contributions thereto. Plus an apology to attorney Arnold Peter’s colleagues for assuming that they have any involvement in their legal partner’s professional activities.

• Team Norsigian Accentuates the Negative (16) (October 31, 2010). In which I conclude my dissection of Team Norsigian’s “Report on Earl Brooks.”

Team Norsigian Accentuates the Negative (15) (October 28, 2010). In which I commence my dissection of Team Norsigian’s deeply flawed “Report on Earl Brooks.”

• Team Norsigian Accentuates the Negative (14) (October 24, 2010). In which I return to the subject of the questionable expertise of Team Norsigian’s roster of experts, specifically “photography expert” Patrick Alt and “art expert” Robert C. Moeller III. With a sidebar on the scientific practice of “saving the appearances,” including guest shots by Thomas Kuhn, Thomas Sowell, and William of Ockham.

Team Norsigian Accentuates the Negative (13) (October 21, 2010). In which I conclude my consideration of the role that Team Norsigian’s “photography expert” Patrick Alt has played in this debacle to date, including the contributions he could have made but didn’t, for reasons undisclosed.

Team Norsigian Accentuates the Negative (12) (October 17, 2010). In which I commence my analysis of the role that Team Norsigian’s “photography expert” Patrick Alt has played in this debacle to date.

• Planet of the Academics: An Interlude (2) (October 14, 2010). In which I continue my analysis of the critique leveled at me by photographer Jeff Schneider, with emphasis on my relationship to, understanding of, and experience with the craft of photography.

• Planet of the Academics: An Interlude (1) (October 10, 2010). In which I respond to the attack on me by commenter Jeff Schneider, who has come to the defense of Patrick Alt while persuading himself that I’m an “academic,” therefore grant credence only to other “academics,” and consequently “do not have access” to understandings of photographic practice based on the experience of craft activity, understandings shared by “people who actually make images.”

• Guest Post 7: Patrick Alt on the Norsigian/Adams Negatives ― October 6, 2010. In which Team Norsigian’s designated “photography expert,” landscape photography and vintage-camera repairman Alt, defends his role in ascribing negatives to Ansel Adams, while at the same time qualifying and partially recanting that attribution.

• Team Norsigian Accentuates the Negative (11) (September 26, 2010). In which I offer an assessment of Team Norsigian’s preliminary commentary on assertions that Earl Brooks may have authored the Norsigian negatives. Plus brief discussion of the trailer of the Norsigian documentary film in progress, and other relevant matters.

• Team Norsigian Accentuates the Negative (10) (September 17, 2010). In which I weigh the request by Arnold Peter, attorney for Team Norsigian, that the federal District Court dismiss the trademark infringement suit brought against Rick Norsigian and Peter’s Beverly Hills firm PRS Media Partners by the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust, on the grounds that this is a free-speech First Amendment issue.

• Team Norsigian Accentuates the Negative (9) (September 1, 2010). In which I note the absence of hard forensic evidence supporting Team Norsigian’s claim that the disputed negatives show fire damage. Plus discussion of Team Norsigian’s response to the recantation and bailing out of their “art expert,” and some urging that research at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson be renewed.

• Team Norsigian Accentuates the Negative (8) (August 30, 2010). In which I report and comment on such diverse but related matters as the outing of Beverly Hills gallerist David W. Streets as a convicted felon; the recantation of his earlier authentication by Team Norsigian’s “art expert, Robert C. Moeller III; and the Center for Creative Photography’s issuing of a statement casting doubt on the negatives as works by Adams.

• Cowflop from the Adams Herd (3) (August 28, 2010). In which I continue my scrutiny of the tall tales coming from William “Wild Bill” Turnage, Managing Trustee of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust. Plus some questioning of the rights granted in perpetuity to Adams’s heirs and assigns to profit handsomely from their exclusive right to use Yosemite National Park for the marketing of their product line.

• Team Norsigian Accentuates the Negative (7) (August 25, 2010). In which I ponder at greater length the lawsuit filed against Team Norsigian in Federal District Court in San Francisco by The Ansel Adams Publishing Trust, and also examine Team Norsigian’s relationship up to that point with the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, AZ, the primary repository of Adams material.

• Team Norsigian Accentuates the Negative (6) (August 24, 2010). In which I discuss the lawsuit, filed in federal district court in San Francisco on August 23 by The Ansel Adams Publishing Trust, that seeks to stop Rick Norsigian and consulting firm PRS Media Partners from using Adams’s trademarked name and likeness to market prints from the negatives in the  Norsigian Collection.

• Team Norsigian Accentuates the Negative (5) (August 21, 2010). I which I relay the announcement that Team Norsigian, the Adams Trust, and the Center for Creative Photography had agreed on some authentication procedures (untrue, as it turned out); discuss my rejection of Arnold Peter’s offer to join Team Norsigian; and assess the significance of Team Norsigian’s locating Irving Schwartz of Fresno, from whom Rick Norsigian bought these negatives in 2000.

• Team Norsigian Accentuates the Negative (4) (August 18, 2010). In which I note photographer Jesse Kalisher’s departure as custom printer of the Norsigian negatives, and provide a summing up of the story so far.

• Team Norsigian Accentuates the Negative (3) (August 17, 2010). In which in examine in detail the credentials (or lack of same) of Beverly Hills gallerist David W. Streets, marketer of the Norsigian prints and the party responsible for the claim that the Norsigian negatives are worth $200 million. With musings on Streets’s just-revealed history as a convicted felon and con artist.

• Team Norsigian Accentuates the Negative (2) (August 14, 2010). In which I evaluate in brief the credentials of all members of Team Norsigian and the “Final Report” in which these characters claim to have authenticated the negatives as Adams’s work. With an advisory from me to Team Norsigian’s “forensics and criminalistics expert” and its “evidence and burden-of-proof analyst” on what would actually constitute a basic forensic and evidentiary investigation of these materials.

• Team Norsigian Accentuates the Negative (1) (August 12, 2010). In which I initiate my investigation of the credentials of Team Norsigian, their methodologies for their inquiries, and the credibility of their claims of authentication of the disputed negatives as works by Adams.

• Cowflop from the Adams Herd (2) (August 10, 2010). In which I examine the ludicrous claim by Beverly Hills gallerist David W. Streets that the Norsigian negatives, if authenticated, would be worth USD $200 million; contradict the assertions by William Turnage and Matthew Adams that they’re worthless; and offer my own more modest estimate of their real market value if proven to be made by Adams.

• Cowflop from the Adams Herd (1) (July 30, 2010). In which I begin my critical coverage of the claim by Rick Norsigian and his collaborators to have discovered a trove of 65 “lost” negatives by Ansel Adams, with emphasis on the bizarre and deceitful responses to this claim of William Turnage, Managing Trustee of the Adams Trust, and Matthew Adams, grandson of Ansel and director of the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite National Park.

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