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Ansel Adams’ Alleged Garage Sale Negatives Subject of Lawsuit

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Ansel Adams at Work: The Fiat Lux Commission by UCR/CMP on Flickr

Ansel Adams at Work: The Fiat Lux Commission by UCR/CMP on Flickr

Several weeks ago, it was reported that lost work of revered photographer Ansel Adams may have been bought at a garage sale in Fresno a decade ago; now there is a legal dispute over whether the person who found the alleged lost work can use Adams’ name, likeness, and trademark in attempts to sell prints and posters from the negatives on his own website.

The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust has sued Rick Norsigian to prevent him from selling derivatives of the negatives, which are not authorized or endorsed in any way by the Trust. The lawsuit alleges that Norsigian and the consulting firm PRS Media Partners are engaging in trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and false advertising by attempting to profit from prints and posters of the negatives; the Trust also claims that selling such products deliberately confuses consumers.

Norsigian says he bought 65 glass negatives of Yosemite National Park about 10 years ago for $45, and claims that when he noticed resemblances between the negatives and Adams’ work, he hired a lawyer to get together an authentication team. After six months of study, the team concluded the negatives had been produced by Adams “beyond a reasonable doubt.” It was generally thought these negatives had been destroyed in a fire at Adams’ studio in 1937.

The Trust maintains that the whole thing is a scam and points to “substantial evidence” that the works are those of Earl Brooks, whose niece has publicly claimed she has a photo of her uncle’s that is identical to one of the negatives bought by Norsigian at the garage sale.

The Trust was established by Adams himself in 1976 to protect his work and legacy.

What do you think about this lawsuit? Assuming the negatives are really Adams’ work, should the finder be able to profit from prints and posters made from them or does the Trust have a strong argument?

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September 1st, 2010 at 10:09 am