Proof and final (family from Portland, Michigan)

What it is:

Two cabinet cards, each measuring 4.25 x 6.5 inches.

What I know about it:

Photographer for both is George J. Van Horne of Portland, Michigan.  Stamped on the back of the left-hand one is:  THIS picture is only a proof and should not be considered a finished photo. / Geo. J. Van Horne / Portland, Mich.


Yesterday’s post and comments brought up the topic of making proofs in vintage photography.  With that in mind, I thought people might find these photos interesting.  The one on the left is marked as a proof.  The one on the right isn’t, leading me to assume it is intended to be a finished product.  Looking back from my vantage point in the future, I appreciate the picture on the left, with its clearer image and greater amount of period detail.  Yet apparently our family here preferred the more artistic version on the right.  The cameo-style circular edge may have seemed like a neat trick, or it may have simply been their way of cropping out that poorly painted backdrop.  I don’t know if the way the one on the right looks faded is a result of actual fading over time or the result of the process that gave the photo a hazy circular border, though I don’t think the process should have caused fading to the center.  Perhaps the over exposure on the right was deliberate, with the intent of softening everyone’s faces, though to my eyes it just looks washed out.  To be honest, I had a tendency to skip over the one on the right as I was sorting through my boxes, since it is less interesting to me than the one on the left.  I’m glad I finally realized it’s the same people, the same sitting even, and was able to put them together.

4 comments on “Proof and final (family from Portland, Michigan)”

  1. The proof on the left says a lot more about the family than the one they chose–maybe that explains something! Their postures seem very revealing. But the placement of the backdrop is distracting.

    • I agree the full-body photo is more revealing. I have to remind myself that it’s my frame of mind a century later that leads me to think what it reveals is something they’d want to hide, and yet I can’t help but detect some discomfort in the one on the left.

  2. I too prefer the full family one but I can imagine they wanted a dignified and conservative photo for a frame in the parlor…they’d go with the one on the right.

    • Agreed. I can see that the pose on the right is the best fit for the cropped circle finish they ended up with, but it makes me wonder what, if anything, might have been done to “enhance” the one on the left, had they chosen it, or had it been their only option for some reason.

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