There were a few glorious years in the history of photography where all photographs were vernacular. The first daguerreotypes were not made by professionals for hire. Spirited amateur scientists who did not aspire to make art created those first images on silver plates developed with mercury. True vernacular. Of the people, for the people and by the people.
Later dags were mostly un-vernacular. There quickly came a time when people learned the photographic processes to make money taking pictures for folks. Commercial photography. Not snapshots, not vernacular. I maintain that for a photograph to be called vernacular it has to have been taken without commercial intent. That might be too narrow a definition of the multitudes of vernacular that pass before our eyes. Go ahead and come up with some definitions of your own.
By the time tintypes came along there was a very strongly developed tradition of commercial photography. Lots of Daguerreotypists paved the way to the field of commercial photography. The photographers who followed them used whatever medium of photography was best for their time and place. At one time the tintype was a great medium of choice. I can imagine some daguerreotypists moving on to make tintypes and paper prints. They came to their new mediums with a lot of previous knowledge of photography. They might have been able to start taking portraits and other scenes relatively quickly in their transitions to newer and newer techniques.
I like to speculate about old photographs like this tintype of a mother and dog and a daughter. This tintype does not look like it was a commercial venture. I can not imagine a commercial photographer producing an image so unlike other commercial portraits. I prefer to imagine that a member of the family decided to try photography. It might have been a brother, uncle or father. A man learning a new trade would have to practice his new trade. How about practicing on the family? The photographer was so new to his trade and to the photographic medium that he could not control studio lighting. He brought the available family members and the family dog out into the best light available, the middle of a field with a fence in the background.
This speculation about vernacular tintypes began with viewing a contemporary tintype on Facebook that was a portrait of a woman with a dog. It reminded me of this old tintype that hangs on our living room wall in a gutta-percha frame. That contemporary tintype was done for art’s sake. This old tintype was done for an unknown purpose. I’m pretty sure no money changed hands in the making of the portrait of Mother, Dog and Daughter.
That to me makes it vernacular.