During an infrequent family gathering, my brothers and I were pouring over several photo albums that our dad had compiled many years ago, after our mom’s death. While the three of us were commenting about how family and friends looked over the years, I was especially taken with several photographs of my mother as a young woman taken in the early 1940s. The photographs in the album were all 8”x10” sepia tone prints. In the back of the album were another half-dozen or so proofs from that sitting that were labeled as such and also 8”x10” in format. This habit of saving the not-quite-so-perfect impressions of an individual intrigued me. While the “most beautiful” presentations were selected for inclusion in the photo album, the other portrait proofs were also kept, probably because they still held facets of a personality, not as nicely presented, but still part of that person. (In 1996, when I sorted through photographs of my son’s bar mitzvah, I was reluctant to actually throw out several shots of him that were unbecoming, since they were still very characteristic. My daughter, likewise, has also kept her college graduation portrait rejects.)
What is the ideal beautiful commercial portrait? The sitter wants to be presented in the best possible light, without blemishes, to present a positive self-image. What I would like to present in the Mental Portrait Proof series is the alternative portrait that would have been rejected, for whatever reason. I am interested in those aspects of the discarded and not fashionable, the moments of uncertainty or the unknown. Each mental portrait is approximately 9-1/2”x7-1/2” and a single color, based on my mother’s 1940 prints. The series includes nine prints, all of the same woman. The intention is to group them either singly or in multiples, as selected by the viewer. In the case of the multiple composites, the viewer can group the portraits to compliment or oppose different facets of a personality, sort of like playing cards where you arrange what is a full house.