The long-disputed discovery of Ansel Adams negatives by Rick Norisigian has been authenticated by David W. Streets in a Beverly Hills press conference today. CNN covered the story:
How these 6.5 x 8.5 inch glass plate negatives of famous Yosemite landscapes and San Francisco landmarks — some of them with fire damage — made their way from Adams collection 70 years ago to a Southern California garage sale in 2000 can only be guessed.
The person who sold them to Norsigian at the garage sale told him he bought them in the 1940s at a warehouse salvage in Los Angeles.
Photography expert Patrick Alt, who helped confirm the authenticity of the negatives, suspects Adams carried them to use in a photography class he was teaching in Pasadena, California, in the early 1940s.
“It is my belief that he brought these negatives with him for teaching purposes and to show students how to not let their negatives be engulfed in a fire,” Alt said. “I think this clearly explains the range of work in these negatives, from very early pictorialist boat pictures, to images not as successful, to images of the highest level of his work during this time period.”
Alt said it is impossible to know why Adams would store them in Pasadena and never reclaim them.
The plates were individually wrapped in newspaper inside deteriorating manila envelopes. Notations on each envelope appeared to have been made by Virginia Adams, the photographer’s wife, according to handwriting experts Michael Nattenberg and Marcel Matley. They compared them to samples provided by the Adams’ grandson.
While most of the negatives appear never to have been printed, several are nearly identical to well-known Adams prints, the experts said.