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Thursday, 29 July 2010

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As wedding photographers will attest, it is always someone's shutterbug uncle that comes along to ruin everything. Bah!

KTVU has a real local news department. Casual viewers might think the station is a Fox affiliate, but don't use that term in conversation with their news producers. They'll tell you the station and the network are completely separate news operations.

Whee! The roller-coaster ride picks up.

Still appropriate to remain somewhat undecided on both claims -- but this one has a heck of a lot less self-interest in it than the other one.

A few experts may be feeling some egg on their faces about now, too.

Guess I can keep my 200 million then. Thanks Uncle Earl!

So in the original story there was a certain ex-prosecuter named Manny Medrano who boasted "I have sent people to prison for the rest of their lives for far less evidence than I have seen in this case". Sure didn't take long for reasonable doubt to emerge here. I'm thinking maybe the Innocence Project should be looking at Mr Medrano's case history...

Take these chains, dance all night

Now where was that 0.2 Gigabucks?

Awesome.

I am starting a prog-rock band named Uncle Earl.

I think it would be wonderfully ironic if the very publicity that the Norsigian camp craves (to potentially drive up prices) ends up revealing the plates' relatively scant worth.

Charlie,

My comment "Take these chains" is a quote from a song by Uncle Earl (Not prog-rock but prog-country :-)

So....forty five dollars is about it then?

Here is a true story, not as dramatic and more common but still keen.

Sitting at home and the phone rings. It's a friend who has bought a camera bag at a yard sale for $5 that has 'some old film camera stuff in it' and would I take a look. Sure, say I and drop by for a look. It's a Voigtlander Prominent with 35, 50, and 100mm lenses and surprise surprise it works! There were a few light swipe marks on the front elements but I still managed to sell the kit for her for $600 to a guy who buys for Japanese collectors. You shoulda seen the look on her husbands face when I got back from the camera show and handed him the cash.

What the panel forgot was that when you have a mystery, the most plausible explanation is probably the right one. Instead they opted for a stretch of faith that would yield the biggest bucks.

"'I have sent people to prison for the rest of their lives for far less evidence than I have seen in this case,' said evidence and burden of proof expert Manny Medrano, who was hired by Norsigian to help authenticate them. 'In my view, those photographs were done by Ansel Adams.'"

http://edition.cnn.com/2010/SHOWBIZ/07/27/ansel.adams.discovery/index.html

I think this is going to inspire some curator to bring the work of "Uncle Earl" to a new audience.

For the record, there's already an old time band called http://www.myspace.com/uncleearl>"Uncle Earl".

charlie: don't let it stop you, but there is already a bluegrass band named Uncle Earl (that came to mind imeediately when i saw this headline)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncle_Earl

i've seen and enjoyed two of their performances

And for those of you who believe that a truck driver found a $5 Jackson Pollock at a thrift store....

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/07/12/100712fa_fact_grann

Seriously though, It's a good read regardless.

I was looking in the case behind the woman and it looks like there might be some old cameras on the lower shelf. Maybe one belonged to Uncle Earl.

LOL. Have I mentioned that I have a sweet Matisse to sell you? Oh, and part of a bridge in Brooklyn.

I'm betting that Ansel Adams WAS Uncle Earl!

Nice to have you back, Mike.

Now it appears that St. Ansel didn't develop his talent spontaneously, but cribbed from Uncle Earl.
THAT ought to be worth about a dozen Master's thesis(es) to document!

It's entertaining that in the linked article the argument that they are uncle Earl's negatives is that they are similar to, but not the same as some of his prints (except for clouds moving, and camera shifting). This is the same argument that makes them Ansel's!

This is the same argument that will also mark them some other California photographer's negatives.

But the quote that pulls it all together for me, “To duplicate those shadows, to have the camera sit in the exact same place by two different photographers is virtually impossible,”

To which I say, "bovine excrement!"

Oh yeah, if you haven't checked out the NYer article referred to above, you need to. It's maybe one of the best articles about the art world you will ever read. Starts out one way and ends another and you won't know what hit you along the way.

So on that day, as Ansel Adams and Uncle Earl were setting up their cameras, and noticing the same cloud formations, I wonder if they spoke to each other? Maybe they joked about how maybe someday, if they were lucky, the whole art world would be discussing the images they made that day?

She recognized them right away as Uncle Earl's photos? Yeah, right. One story sounds just as implausible as the other. My guess is, we'll never know for sure who shot those.

The found Pollock is also one helluva fun documentary film- and it leaves little left other than "unreasonable" doubt.

It is not allow in our family to bet all-in and then bet again if the all-in does not work out!

I bet it is by st ansel. More interesting by far.

"So on that day, as Ansel Adams and Uncle Earl were setting up their cameras, and noticing the same cloud formations, I wonder if they spoke to each other?"
Of course, Uncle Earl was very generous. We all know Ansel was a Master Printer... but his photo op scouting and technique in the field really sucked. But tagging along with Uncle Earl solved all his problems. Here is an excerpt from the Uncle Earl Diaries:

"The Other Night at Hernandez

By November 41 I started to get bugged by this Ansel guy always claiming the tripod holes I just had warmed up... but the Pastrami sandwiches he had with him were really yummy. He was such a klutz with exposure, I told him to go for f32 and 1 second, or he would have messed up that too. Sure hope he knows his way around in the darkroom..."

Gee, thanks Mike!! Now I'm going to have just that much more trouble selling my collection of authentic photos by Nicéphore Niépce on eBay.

Well when I was in college, one of my tutor's had a story which I have no reason to doubt. A student brought him an album found in a rubbish skip, which on inspection turned out to contain original Brett Western prints.

And I once bought for £7 in a junk shop, a near mint condition Voigtlander Bessa 6x9 rangefinder with Color-Skopa lens which I subsequently swapped at Jessops for a used but mint Metz 45 CL-4 flash and spare battery worth over £150. Which in the long term, earned me far more than the camera would have made if sold privately.

"It is not allow in our family to bet all-in and then bet again if the all-in does not work out!"

Dennis,
Hehe! Yes, very true. I actually thought of that as I was writing it...I'd have nothing left with which to make the second bet.

toto,
I disagree. I think that if the Norsigian people cooperate (which it is not in their interests to do), then it will be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Uncle Earl was the photographer. That's just a guess, a bet, but I'd take the bet. What we had were hoofbeats, and the Norsigian camp made a careful case for "zebra," and we've just found the horse.

Greg R.,
I doubt very much you can take any natural photograph with a complex shadow in it, and--even using it for reference--go to the same location and get a photograph with the exact same complex shadow. Another bet I'd take. Read "The Rephotographic Survey Project" by Klett et al. to learn about some of the difficulties of rephotographing. Turns out it's not a trivial set of problems at all.

Mike

Phil,
If you know any independent rare/used book dealers, just ask them what their best-ever find was. You hear some great "treasure-hunting" stories that way.

Mike

The two images were taken just seconds or minutes apart. Note the shape and position of the small cloud face in the upper left. Obviously two exposures made in the same camera at the exact location under the same conditions without even moving the tripod. One image was printed; the other was a "spare", often done by photographers in case one image or plate is damaged.

I like the uncle earl story better. While its exciting Ansel Adams, uncle Earl maybe had the same equipment and there fore its plausable that Ansel is not the Author. Also how great would it be that Uncle Earl gets his fair credit and now the price begins..........

The clouds in the two pictures do not match up, so they have to have been taken at different times.

Frankly my dear.............

The clouds are the proof they are Adam's. No way that could be duplicated. Bracketing the picture with two or more exposures is the professional way to make sure it is done right. It is nonsense to say they are faked. I wonder if Adams' son has the original plate. Nothing mentioned about that.

After comparing the two shots in this article, barring a total reprint fraud, the clouds in the background are almost identical. There a few minor differences which lead me to think that one of the shots was taken immediately after the other. It certainly is worth considering.

Dear Folks,

Okay, I'm convinced. As James has pointed out, the background clouds are clearly very similar and positioned almost the same. The foreground clouds are not, but that's what you expect to change the most with time. The position of the tree relative to the mountains in the background is identical within the limits of resolution of the video. The shadows on the ground are extremely similar. What that tells you is that those photographs were made from almost exactly the same position, for sure. Also, the cloud patterns were very similar and the sun position was nearly the same in both photographs. Sun positions do repeat, and so do weather patterns. What are the odds that all that falls together on two entirely different dates? I'd call it essentially zero.

Now, does that mean that they have to be taken by the same photographer? Well, no. Look at this collaboration that Laurie Edison and I did:

http://ctein.com/collab03.jpg

We made those two photographs unbeknownst to each other. Until we compared our proof prints, we hadn't even realized that we had done this. Obviously within a few moments of each other we both found just about exactly the same spot to make the photograph from, and the clouds in the background showed that it could not have been all that different in time.

So, yes, those could be two different photographs by two different photographers... but unless someone can trot out some evidence that both Earl and Ansel were photographing in the park on the same day in the same area, I have to go with the horse. Can I say that they weren't both there, coincident in space and time? No. Do I for one moment think it's likely they were? Not on your life.


~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
======================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
======================================

If you look at the clouds there are in different positions in the picture. The two pictures were taken at different times.

surely they cant be the same note the cloud formation changes when you put the one over the other

LeRoy and Jerry,
Correct, but I think James Taylor called it correctly. It's very common for large format photographers to take both sides of a film holder of one subject, to have a backup exposure and a possible replacement neg in case anything happens to the first one.

Mike

The clouds can move and we are not looking at Photoshoped images. You can replicate everything except the clouds and there the differences lie. I see two possibilities. Two images were made with the same camera and one of the glass plates is missing. Or, two images were made with two cameras but no two lenses are exactly alike so I think on very close, perhaps microscopic inspection, you'll see differences in the glass plate and the photo held by the Adams' family.

Andrew said:

Charlie,

My comment "Take these chains" is a quote from a song by Uncle Earl (Not prog-rock but prog-country :-)


I like it. I may just have to buy that record.

Thanks!

PS are you a Freakwater fan? Or Anna Fermin's Trigger Gospel? If not chem em out.

I am wondering what that object on the right hand side of the second picture is. Looks like a wheel of some kind

Now the real fun begins... as we watch the Norsigian people try to come up with reasons *not* to have the negatives evaluated by independent experts. I expect convoluted logic and protests aplenty!

I'm going with the horse. One piece of evidence not mentioned much: Fresno, before the war, was a pretty small city, less than 100,000, I believe. Yet, that's where Uncle Earl hailed from, and that's where the negs were found. That Adams misplaced a batch of glass plates that later turned up in Fresno, right next to Uncle Earl, seems really unlikely.

JC

"Bracketing the picture with two or more exposures is the professional way to make sure it is done right."

Its not just the professional way, it is the common sense way. When you lug a view camera around (and I do lug a 6-1/2 x 8-1/2 or 4x5 camera around and I am not a pro), it makes sense to make two exposures just in case one is damaged in processing, or you decide you want to give the negative additional or less development. When there are clouds, and I like the way they look very much, I will make both exposures very close together. In other cases, I will wait and see what the wind does with the clouds, in the hopes of getting something I like better on the second sheet. Sometimes that wait can be long enough to make a great deal of difference in the way the clouds look in the second photo. We large format photographers are a patient lot. If the plates turn out to be Uncle Earl's it would not be surprising that the clouds are different.

To expand a bit on this comment by Mike:
"Correct, but I think James Taylor called it correctly. It's very common for large format photographers to take both sides of a film holder of one subject, to have a backup exposure and a possible replacement neg in case anything happens to the first one."

Yup. And just to be on the safe side the photographer will send the "A" and "B" sheets of film to different labs, or develop them in different lots himself/herself, to preempt possible processing accidents.

@ Lars Runar
" ... you'll see differences in the glass plate and the photo held by the Adams' family."

Say, do you suppose Lurch or Thing might have a copy? ... (sorry, forgive me, couldn't resist ... probably only makes sense if you grew up watching bizarre sitcoms in the 60's).

According to A.D.Coleman, the Ansel camp is over the top in their condemnation http://nearbycafe.com/artandphoto/photocritic/
But even if proven wrong, how much would you pay for a Norsigian print of an Ansel negative? Most of Ansel's magic was in the darkroom printing process.

OK. Great photographers are great because they take good photographs. So the door swing both ways, too? Anything by a great photographer is great and worth a lot. One second the very same plates by Ansel Adams are worth $200M, the next they are by Uncle Earl and worth $45?

Sometimes one just has to wonder.

So, here are some (hopefully) stimulating questions:
Are they good photos ?
Is it art ?
Would they be art if they were proved to be authentic A.A. ?
Would they be art if they were proved to be from uncle Earl ?
Does it matter who took them ?
Will you mock people posting negative comments for them on flickr ?

Just asking

In the late 60s I photographed for my high school newspaper. A friend of mine and I got almost the same image of action in a football game. We were standing next to each other, both using Nikons with 200 mm lenses, framed the images similarly and pressed the shutter release at the same time.

This is not to say that the glass plates in question were made by Adams. How the heck would I know?

"KTVU has a real local news department. Casual viewers might think the station is a Fox affiliate, but don't use that term in conversation with their news producers. They'll tell you the station and the network are completely separate news operations."

Don't count on that lasting very long. Go 1:50 into this clip:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036677/ns/msnbc_tv-countdown_with_keith_olbermann/#38530677

of the 2 photos to compare just look at the clouds. They are not the same. Look at all details. Clouds are never the same in nature, they are always changing. The clouds around the tree are not the same. So looks like everbody need to take a closer look!!

Kirk,
We know it's not from the same negative. The argument is that it's from the same location, the same camera, the same point in space, the same photographer.

Closer analysis is needed to prove the Norsigian negatives are Earl Brooks's. But the chances are good.

Mike

You are looking at the wrong thing. Shadows can be altered but clouds cannot.

The cloud formation in the background of the "Real" Ansel Adams is far different that the one in the "copy".

(You get past that and you still have to ask: Is this an original picture or a picture of a picture.. That happens all the time and is why most photo galleries won't let you take pictures of the photos on display )

Just because the photographs were taken from the same position doesn't mean they were taken by the same person. From looking at the terrain, it would appear that a good perspective of the tree in its full width could only be taken from two angles. Looking at the mountainous background I would say they are different photographs taken at a different time of year.

I had a conversation about these photos with someone who might know something useful - Marie Cosindas, who studied and worked with Adams in the early 60s. She had no doubt they were not Adams for a number of technical reasons - not up to his quality, plus he was fastidious at keeping track of every photo he ever took.
She also told us some great stories about her long career as a photographer, including working with Dr Land at Polaroid and a fascinating story about getting photos of Emperor Haile Selaisse in Ethiopia which nearly made her miss a session with Alec Guiness in England.
She's 85 but still active and made us promise to join her for a show at the Getty this fall that includes her work!

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