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message 1: by Heather (new)

Heather Sorry everyone that I have been MIA for that last little while. Let's try to get this going again! If anyone has any requests or concerns, please send me a message and we'll see what we can do! Heather

message 2: by Heather (new)

Heather Photoshop Precursor Silvy Tweaked Images Back in Dickens’s Day

By Martin Gayford - Aug 2, 2010 5:00 PM MDT
Image manipulation is a news story, and a scandal, in the 21st century.

A beautiful little exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery -- “Camille Silvy: Photographer of Modern Life” -- reveals that the procedures we associate with Photoshop already existed in mid-Victorian London.

Silvy (1834-1910) was a brilliant French photographic pioneer who set up a successful business in Britain. His masterpiece, “Studies on Light: Twilight,” (1859), shows a London street at dusk. Two figures, a man and boy, stand beneath a gas lamp in the gathering gloom. The background is an atmospheric gray blur.

Looking at it, you can almost feel the chill and smell the coal smoke. As a work of art it’s comparable in effect to the townscapes described in “Bleak House” by Charles Dickens, whom Silvy thought of asking to write a text to tout his photographs.

Another contemporary of Silvy that it brings to mind is Whistler (also born in 1834), who was painting hazy studies of nocturnal London at exactly this time. Interestingly, Silvy used similar methods to those of a painter to achieve his effects.

The figures were obviously posed. More surprisingly, the final image was pieced together from four separate negatives: one for the figures, others for the lamp, the wall on the right and the misty distance. The curator of the show, Mark Haworth- Booth, suggests that the top of a street lamp was drawn by hand (Silvy was a proficient draftsman and watercolorist). This might be right as it’s much sharper than the figures standing beside.

‘Badly Drawn’

The manipulation is so smoothly done that you wouldn’t notice unless it was pointed out. The problem with many users of Photoshop is that they are clumsy, which is why the world is now full of what David Hockney calls “badly drawn photographs.”

This, on the other hand, is a superbly well-drawn photograph. The same is true of “River Scene, France” (1858) made before Silvy moved to London. It brings to mind a different sort of painting -- the placid river landscapes of Corot and Constable to which Silvy produced a richly atmospheric photographic equivalent. The final image was assembled from two negatives, with trees and bits of cloud drawn over by hand.

Most of Silvy’s work, however, wasn’t landscape but portraiture -- and he thought of it as business, not art. He turned out pictures of people on an industrial scale, employing dozens of assistants and averaging one sitter every 12 minutes at the peak of his success.

Ingres’s Countess

Even so, Silvy’s photographic portraits also recall contemporary painting. Any art historian looking at his “Misses Booth” (1861) would think of Ingres’s “Comtesse d’Haussonville” (1845), which has a similar trick with a mirror.

A more intriguing connection isn’t with Ingres but with Facebook. By the 1850s, photography had caused a step-change in the quantity of available images (no painter could portray one sitter every 12 minutes). This resulted in a new level of image sharing.

The faces of loved ones and celebrities such as Prince Albert were collected in albums to be shown and discussed with friends and family. As Haworth-Booth points out, those albums were the Victorian predecessors of social-networking sites.

Silvy’s photographic career was short. He retired in his mid-30s, and died -- decades later -- in a psychiatric hospital. His work is a window on an early Impressionist world and a reminder that photography had scarcely been invented before it began to lie.

"La Vall'e de l'Huisne" by Camille Silvy.

"Silvy in his Studio with his Family" by Camille Silvy.

"The Misses Booth" by Camille Silvy.

"The Hashish Smoker on the Balcony" (1857),

“Camille Silvy: Photographer of Modern Life” is at the National Portrait Gallery, London, through Oct. 24. Information:

message 3: by Monica (last edited Aug 11, 2010 07:09AM) (new)

Monica | 909 comments Thanks Heather! Really good article. Wouldn't I love an exhibition catalogue!

message 4: by Heather (new)

This print of the Jeffrey pine in Yosemite by an unknown photographer, Earl Brooks, resembles an image that has been attributed to Ansel Adams.

Tale of Ansel Adams Negatives Grows Hazy

Published: August 13, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO — It was a dream come true, straight out of “Antiques Roadshow.” In 2000 Rick Norsigian, a painter in a school maintenance department, bought a box of photo negatives at a garage sale in Fresno, Calif., for $45. Last month, a decade later, he stood in a Beverly Hills art gallery to announce that a team of experts had concluded “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Ansel Adams had taken the pictures.

The gallery’s owner, David W. Streets, appraised the value of the 65 images, which the experts called “the lost negatives,” at $200 million, and the incident made news around the world.

But a fairy-tale ending is eluding Mr. Norsigian. A day after the announcement, Matthew Adams, a grandson of the photographer, disputed the finding, questioned the credentials of the experts and went so far as to call the whole business a “scam.”

A few days after that, an Oakland woman, Marian Walton, announced that she had a photo that was identical to one of the negatives. It had been taken, she said, not by Adams, the famous outdoors photographer, but by an uncle of hers, Earl Brooks.

And now, in the latest complication, court records reveal that Mr. Streets, who set the value for the negatives and is handling the related sales, is a convicted felon with a criminal record for petty theft and fraud in Louisiana and Kentucky. Though he says on his Web site,, that he has 25 years of fine-art appraisal experience, two of Mr. Streets’s former employers say his true talent is in the embellishment of his credentials.

Doris Allen, who owns the Bryant Galleries in New Orleans, says that though Mr. Streets, 45, can be “very charming,” he had said he had no appraisal experience when she hired him at her business in 2000. Now she is amazed to see him occupy an influential role in a national art debate. “How can he get up there and claim that those negatives are worth $200 million?” she said. “That is absurd.”

The discussion of just who took the pictures is far from over, and Mr. Norsigian’s lawyer, Arnold Peter, said Mr. Streets’s past has little bearing on that question. But in a subjective field where credibility and expertise matter, it cannot help Mr. Norsigian that Mr. Streets’s résumé appears to be tarnished.

For his part, Mr. Streets initially denied in an interview that he was the same David W. Streets who was convicted of passing bad checks, fraud and petty theft over a seven-year period that ended in 1998 when he was in his early 30s. But he later sent an e-mail in which he cited his extensive civic involvement in recent years, described the incidents as old, and attributed them to “untreated manic-depression” that he began to experience after his mother “committed suicide when I was 15, and my father died the following year.”

“I took complete responsibility and learned from that experience,” he said.

The art debate has its roots in Mr. Norsigian’s purchase of the box of negatives, a rummage-sale find that took on a new light when he later noticed in an Adams biography that certain features of the plate-glass negatives he bought, which depict California landscape scenes from Carmel, Yosemite and around San Francisco, seemed to match events in in Adams’s life. In particular, the plates showed evidence of fire damage, and in 1937 Adams lost negatives to a darkroom fire.

“The size, the fire damage, the locations and different stuff like that,” Mr. Norsigian said. “I kept researching little pieces at a time.”

He took his discovery to members of the Adams family, who disputed his claims. Adams had been notoriously protective of his negatives, locking them in a bank vault when he lived in San Francisco. Would he misplace a box of negatives?

“Ansel would never have done something like that,” said William Turnage, managing trustee of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust, which owns the rights to Adams’s name and work.

But in 2007 Mr. Norsigian and Mr. Peter, his lawyer, set about organizing an authentication team that included a former F.B.I. agent, a former United States attorney, two handwriting experts, a meteorologist (to track cloud patterns in the images), a landscape photographer and a former curator of European decorative arts and sculpture for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

They concluded, without question, that the prints were of the sort made by Adams as a young photographer in the 1920s.

Mr. Peter said he decided to market the materials through Mr. Streets, whom he did not know but whose work as a dealer he was aware of. Mr. Streets, who moved to California from New Orleans in 2005, bills himself as “Los Angeles’s leading appraiser of all genres of fine art and celebrity memorabilia.”

Among clients listed on his Web site are three former presidents, including Bill Clinton, and numerous celebrities. It features photos of him with Hollywood stars and with Maria Shriver, the wife of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California. A spokesman for Mr. Clinton said he did not recognize the dealer’s name.


Reyhan Harmanci is a staff writer at The Bay Citizen, which produces a twice-weekly local section in Bay Area editions of The New York Times. Additional reporting was provided by Eve Abrams in New Orleans and Jackson Musker in Los Angeles.

message 5: by Heather (new)

Heather Colorado's arts community fears cultural setback if Christo's river project is rejected
By Kyle MacMillan
Denver Post Fine Arts Critic

Hundreds of 20-foot-tall umbrellas dotting valleys in Japan and California. Sandstone-colored fabric wrapping the Pont Neuf in Paris. More than 7,500 orange-curtained gates lining New York's Central Park.

Around the world, cities and towns have embraced the works of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, celebrating the couple's ability to balance populist thrills on the cutting edge of contemporary art.

But not in Colorado?

The artists' idea of suspending nearly 6 miles of fabric over the Arkansas River has met with stout resistance. And the notion that the state might send them packing is unsettling — even embarrassing — to many in the region's arts establishment.

"I don't think their importance could be overstated," said Dean Sobel, director of Denver's Clyfford Still Museum. Until Jeanne-Claude's death in November, he said, "I would have to put Christo and Jeanne-Claude on the very, very short list of important living artists."

So far, Sobel and other members of Colorado's artistic community have not been heard much in the increasingly heated debate over the couple's proposed "Over the River," but that is changing.

The $50 million privately funded work, if approved as proposed, would consist of 5.9 miles of translucent fabric suspended over eight sections of the Arkansas River between Salida and Cañon City. Its current estimated year of completion is 2013.


message 6: by Heather (new)

Heather See comment #4

A Turnaround in Ansel Adams Photo Dispute

Published: August 30, 2010

A leading member of the expert team that declared that a box of negatives bought at a California garage sale were the lost work of Ansel Adams has changed his mind.

Robert C. Moeller III, a former curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and one of the experts hired by Rick Norsigian, a California man, to evaluate his find, said that after further review he had decided that at least some of the images Mr. Norsigian purchased were taken by an unheralded photographer, Earl Brooks.

“I made a mistake,” said Mr. Moeller, a former curator of European decorative arts and sculpture at the Boston museum, who was part of the team that in July announced the discovery of what it called Adams’s “lost negatives.”

Mr. Moeller said that his reversal last week came after examining four pictures owned by Marian Walton, of Oakland, Calif., a niece of Mr. Brooks’s. Ms. Walton has said that her uncle took at least one of the photos that Mr. Norsigian and his team have represented as the work of Adams. When Mr. Moeller reviewed additional high-resolution images of Mr. Brooks’s images, all landscape shots of Yosemite National Park thought to be taken in the 1920s, he agreed.

“It didn’t take me long to say they were same camera, same time, same man,” Mr. Moeller said in an interview. “My report, which said there was a high probability that Ansel Adams took the photos, has got to change.”

No other members of the panel of experts have come forward to second-guess the panel’s findings. When told of Mr. Moeller’s revised opinion, a lawyer for Mr. Norsigian, Arnold Peter, said that he agreed that the two sets of images looked similar, but “without possession of the negative of the negative, there is no evidence that Earl Brooks created the negative from which the prints were made.”

“It is very likely,” Mr. Peter said, “that Ansel Adams made the negative and created the Brooks prints.” Among the evidence assembled by the Norsigian team to buttress Adams as the creator was a finding by two independent handwriting experts that the writing on the sleeve of the negatives came from Virginia Adams, Adams’s wife. A meteorologist also said the weather pattern on the negatives indicated that they were produced on the same day as other photographs definitely attributed to Adams.

Mr. Moeller said that, as part of Mr. Norsigian’s expert team, he had been paid $1,000 a month plus expenses for six months last year to pore over the 61 glass-plate negatives that Mr. Norsigian bought for $45 at a garage sale in Fresno, Calif., 10 years ago. (The art dealer now marketing prints from the Norsigian negatives put the value of the find at $200 million.) Mr. Moeller said that his work included traveling twice to the Center for Creative Photography, in Tucson, Ariz., the site of Adams’s archives; doing fieldwork in Yosemite; and consulting photographers.

Mr. Moeller said in late August that he examined Ms. Walton’s photos through the help of Scott Nichols, a San Francisco gallery owner who borrowed them from Ms. Walton. Mr. Moeller found three of her images to be exact matches with the negatives held by Mr. Norsigian, he said.

Patrick Alt, a photographer who was a consultant for Mr. Norsigian alongside Mr. Moeller, has also said he found that the images matched, but said he was not sure that Mr. Brooks, rather than Adams, was the photographer.

Mr. Brooks’s relatives said that he was an accomplished photographer. Ms. Walton, 87, inherited the four prints from her father, Mr. Brooks’s brother, and she said she remembered him as “a bohemian type of person.” In a statement, Marge Bloomer, Mr. Brooks’s stepdaughter, said that Mr. Brooks was born in 1897 in California but moved to an artists’ colony in Delaware, where he ran a successful photo portrait studio.

Mr. Moeller took on the consulting job regarding the negatives in June 2009, he said, because he wanted to “solve a puzzle.” During his investigation he found that the quality of some of Mr. Norsigian’s negatives approached that of Adams’s work, but not all.

“The lowest level of quality of Ansel Adams is well above the lowest level of Norsigian’s images,” Mr. Moeller said.

So why did he issue such a definitive statement that Adams was the photographer? “Maybe I kind of wanted them to be Ansel Adams,” he said.

The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust, led by the managing trustee William A. Turnage, has filed a lawsuit in federal district court in San Francisco to stop the sale of the Norsigian prints on the grounds of trademark infringement.

The first public viewing of the images is scheduled for Sept. 25 at the David W. Streets gallery in Beverly Hills, where they will be on sale for $1,500 and $7,500, depending on the print’s quality. They are also being sold by Mr. Norsigian online, where a disclaimer says that the Adams trust has not “endorsed, condoned, sponsored, participated or otherwise approved” the sale. The site says that “the entire risk as to the quality and authenticity of the print described above is with the buyer.”

Mr. Moeller said he came forward to educate the public in making decisions about the worth of the pictures. “I have one of the Norsigian pictures on my iPhone, so I look at it all the time,” he said. “It’s really nice — a 20th-century American photo of Yosemite. It has value, although the value might be $25.”

Reyhan Harmanci is a staff writer at The Bay Citizen, which produces a twice-weekly local section in Bay Area editions of The New York Times.

message 7: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) Wow, I guess this is why there are copyright laws. Passing off Ansel Adams work. I liked his photographs, maybe they were from this other photographer.

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