History's Mysteries

Ansel Adams Heirs Skeptical of Lost Photos

After being lost for decades, 65 negatives shot by famed photographer Ansel Adams were discovered and authenticated by California painter Rick Norsigian, he announced yesterday. (The photos, purchased for $45, were valued at $200 million.) But Adams heirs are skeptical. They say they’ve been dogged by Norsigian for years, saying the painter has been on an “obsessive quest” and that the negatives are “an unfortunate fraud.” Norsigian plans to sell prints from the negatives online, and lawyers with the Adams estate are already looking into suing Norsigian for using a copyrighted name to make money. Norsigian says he bought the negatives years ago and never really considered their value until a friend said they looked like Adams’ work—the same locations, the same style, and sometimes the same associates of Adams were pictured. Authentication was based on the handwriting on the negatives’ sleeves (supposedly belonging to Adams’ wife Virginia), but Adams' heirs say there are spelling errors of place names that don’t make sense given that Virginia was an intelligent native of Yosemite. They also dispute claims that based on snow drift and clouds, some of the photos were taken on the same day as verified Adams works.