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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Ansel Adams authenticated

Photograph by Ansel Adams. Half Dome, Merced River, Winter, Yosemite National Park, California, ca. 1936
Photograph by Ansel Adams. Half Dome, Merced River, Winter, Yosemite National Park, California, ca. 1936

The UA Center for Creative Photography plays an increasingly larger role in questioning the authenticity of emerging photographs claimed to be Ansel Adams originals.

The center was co-founded by Adams in 1975 and is home to the only Adams archive in the world. The collection includes approximately 3,000 fine prints and 40,000 negatives, according to Rebecca Senf, acting senior curator for the Center for Creative Photography.

Adams was drawn to donating the majority of his life’s work to the center because it was one of the few institutions at the time primarily focused primarily on photography, Senf said. Adams worked closely with then-UA President John Schaefer to establish a center that was (essentially) for photography, she said.

“”He (Adams) had spent his entire lifetime championing the medium of photography as a fine art,”” Senf said. “”So the opportunity to be an anchor at an institution that had to do with the medium he loved was incredibly appealing to him.””

Senf has spent seven years studying Adams’ work and is one of the center’s primary Adams experts, along with archivist Leslie Calmes, who has worked with Adams’ photography for roughly 20 years.

A recent article by The New York Times detailed an increase in emerging photographs that people believe to be the work of Adams. Senf said people come to the center almost monthly for authentication consults regarding possible Adams photographs.

“”It is a normal activity for the center for someone to bring us a print they think might be by Adams and ask us to help them authenticate it,”” Senf said.

The center uses an initial three-step method to determine a photograph’s authenticity. First, the staff checks to see if an identical print exists in their collection. If one does they can certify the photograph is Adams’ work. If the center cannot find a match, then they move to step two and check the print against the 40,000 negatives in the archive. If they cannot locate the photograph then, they look at the published sources to see if the print matches against something published by Adams.

“”Once we’ve moved beyond those three and we haven’t been able to find an exact match, then we are never going to be able to say without a doubt that something is or is not by Ansel Adams,”” Senf said.

In these cases, determining the validity of a photograph moves into much grayer territory, she said. The center utilizes other methods of verifying the work in question, such as crossing the paper type, handwriting, and possible time frame of when the photograph was taken against the styles and history of Adams. To be able to conduct these processes, Senf said, takes years of experience and connoisseurship.

Senf warns people to be cautious of where and from whom they buy art and photographs and to always take steps to investigate before hand.

“”I would really encourage people to ask questions and really feel comfortable and informed before purchasing any work of art, no matter who the artist is,”” Senf said.


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