The Morbidly Fascinating Page

On this month's Morbidly Fascinating Page:

Hidden Mothers in 1800s daguerreotypes


Jack the Ripper’s Victims
Lizzie Borden
Voodoo in New Orleans
Screaming Mummies


This photo shows the mother hiding under some sort of troical print.


Mother hiding behind curtain.


This one is a bit ridiculous since the mother did not bother to hide her skirt, so this photo misses the point.


In this one, you can see two hands.


This is obviously a family portrait. To me, it would make more sense if the mother was included. But of course, I am thinking in today's standards.


Here is another ridiculous one. Why show everything except the face? This could have been a touching photo between mother and child, but this way I feel the photo is ruined. But again, I am thinking in today's standards.


This one has the feel of a child abduction with the hidden person demanding ransom by showing proof the children are alive.


This one almost feels like the photographer wanted to expose the mother on purpose, due to the angle of the shot.


I really don't believe that the mother was necessary at all in this photo since the child is old enough to stand still. Notice the elaborate background in this photographer's studio.


This child did not need her mother holding her still because this child is dead. To view more Post-Mortem photography, go HERE


Why do the mothers hide from the photographer?

Hidden mother photography is a genre of photography common in the Victorian era in which young children were photographed with their mother present but hidden in the photograph. It arose from the need to keep children still while the photograph was taken due to the long exposure times of early cameras.

But why did the mothers hide? Why not create a portrait that portrayed familial love and affection? Linda Fregni Nagler, an Italian-Swedish artist and publisher of 2013 book, The Hidden Mother, believes the trend started because parents wanted to create “an intimate bond between the child and the viewer,” thus, leaving the mother out of the equation. Another theory stems from the fact that, in the Victorian era, photographing a loved one was such a rarity. Parents wanted images of their children alone that they could use to send to family members.

Still, others wonder if this could have been part of the long tradition of erasing a woman’s work from the eyes of onlookers. Sure, some of these portraits have been found to include the occasional father, nanny, or photographer’s assistant hidden in plain sight, but the majority of the “pictured” caregivers are mothers.

As photography became more the norm, mothers became less camera-shy, since many subjects did not feel natural in front of the camera. The practice of hiding mothers in baby portraits faded by the 1920s. But, we have been left with photos that captured some very grim facets of the era, a time when antiquity and the modern age collided in a unique way.

See more HERE and HERE

What is a daguerreotype?

The first publicly announced photographic process was the daguerreotype process, invented by Louis Daguerre. The process required several minutes of exposure in the camera and produced beautifully clear and detailed images. In a daguerreotype, the image is developed on thin silver-plated copper sheets and has a reflective quality that can make it look like the image is floating above the metal’s surface. The surface of the image is quite delicate and would be covered with a protective sheet of glass. Creating a daguerreotype was expensive and time consuming, and by the 1860s it had mostly been replaced by newer, more practical processes like the tintype.

A tintype, also known as a ferrotype, is easily identifiable: the photograph is on a thin sheet of metal coated with a dark lacquer or enamel. While a tintype has a metallic sheen, it is not highly reflective like a daguerreotype and has a noticeably darker tint overall. The tintype process was quick, inexpensive, and durable, and proved to be an immediate public success: a person could sit down, have their photo taken, and walk out with the tintype mere minutes later.

Although tintypes required a shorter exposure time than daguerreotypes, it was a far cry from today’s instant photography. The exposure times could last anywhere from 10-40 seconds depending on the light, making it challenging to photograph small children. The solution for 19th century parents who wanted a clear, non-blurry photograph of their child was the “Hidden Mother” (also sometimes known as “Ghost Mothers”).

See more HERE

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