Fresno man's negatives confirmed to be Ansel Adams

FRESNO, California

Art experts announced Tuesday the negatives are authentic Ansel Adams photos. Their value could top $200 million.

A 1937 darkroom fire destroyed about a third of the legendary photographer's negatives. The loss erased an important piece of art history, but at a Beverly Hills art gallery, Rick Norsigian said he has proof he can fill in the gaps.

These photos may be Norsigian's lottery ticket. Art experts say the former Fresno Unified School District painter can sell them for upwards of $200 million because these are Ansel Adams originals, thought lost in a fire.

"When I heard that $200 million, I got a little weak," Norsigian said.

Norsigian and his attorney have put the photos to the test over the last several months. Art experts, legal experts, and even weather experts have examined the negatives for evidence of their authenticity.

"Essentially, we wanted to put these pictures on trial," said Norsigian's attorney, Arnold Peter.

Everybody came out convinced the photos are real. Handwriting specialists say this writing on the envelopes holding the negatives matches that of Adams' wife.

Eight of the negatives have charring around the edges, tying them to the fire that ruined the rest of Adams' inventory. And the photos all show places Adams worked and lived.

"This is what they call Monterey Point," Norsigian said as he pointed to one of the photos.

He says it took him two years to believe it himself. Until then, he was just keeping the negatives under his pool table.

When he tracked down people whose family members are in the photos, he heard stories of their connections to Ansel Adams and he was convinced.

"You combine these stories with the hard evidence and there's nobody else," he said.

Norsigian moved the negatives from the pool table to a bank vault. He plans to take the photos across the country, starting with an exhibition at Fresno State this fall.

Action News spoke to Ansel Adams' son and grandson. They say the family is still skeptical and one reason is the handwriting that was supposed to verify the photos. You may have noticed the writing misspelled "Bridalveil Falls."

Ansel's grandson, Matthew, said, "Virginia was an intelligent, well read young woman, and it is inconceivable to me that she would misspell any Yosemite place names."

The Ansel Adams photos are available for purchase at:

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.