I started thinking about this blog post a week ago when I read about the fortunate soul who discovered a stash of antique glass plate negatives at a yard sale. For the princely sum of $45 this collector believed he’d found what his team of experts ultimately valued at $200 million worth of original Ansel Adams negatives. That would have been quite a story even if the story stopped there. The moral at this point? Perhaps simply to search hard when you’re looking for old photos at flea markets and yard sales.
The next day, however, photographer and blogger Marc Silber spoke with Ansel’s grandson who, in no uncertain terms, questioned the authenticity of the practically priceless pictures. The drama built, and again the story would have been interesting even if everything stopped there. But here’s where Uncle Earl enters. Or, more precisely, Uncle Earl’s niece Miriam, a vigilant senior citizen who saw news of the find and recognized one of the images as belonging to the oeuvre of her photographer uncle. The story surely won’t stop here either, but at this point I’m glad of that. (I wonder if Uncle Earl’s photos are actually old Ansel prints purchased long ago by the amateur in awe of the master?) Either way it’s a fun piece of photographic history unfolding before our eyes. Maybe Uncle Earl will earn a gallery show. Or perhaps the doubters will prove wrong and in fact the collector can get rich from his fortuitous find. Either way, it’s probably going to be fun to watch all this hubbub over just a few photographs.