viernes, 16 de abril de 2010

The Hidden Mother

During a search for Victorian examples of post-mortem photography, I came across these mysterious and extremely odd vintage portraits of families in which the mother is disguised as a chair. 
In some cases there seems to be a real attempt to make the figure of the mother appear like an actual chair; in other cases a curtain is pulled over her face, or even a scarf tied round it. The latter are the more perplexing to me, because there is no illusion being attempted, they simply want to conceal the mother's what end? 

I have been unable to find much writing on this unusual custom, the search continues. I'd love to get my hands on some more of these... 


A possible explanation is that due to the very slow shutter speed of early cameras, the baby would have to stay very still for a long time, hence the need for the mother to be present to prevent fussing, but disguised. 

Here for example, if you look closely you can see the mother crouching down behind the chair, holding the baby. Her arms are disguised as the blue sash around the babies' middle. 

Here is another example of a very well hidden mother, you can see her spotty dress behind the babies' chair. 

 I'm willing to bet there's a mother hidden behind this kid somewhere. 

It would also explain the need for a mechanism such as this:

The Invisible Baby Holder was invented by Fred Pohle around 1908. Looks cozy!

Whatever the reason may be it does make one wonder...why not just include the mother in the portrait? 



8 comentarios:

  1. Someone sent this link to me today -- it's so wonderful. I'm going to look into it as well, as I've never heard of this. I'd love to have one of those hands-free baby-holders anyhow, for curiosity's sake.

  2. Dear Memorias Perdidas,

    Aaron Schuman here - I'm a photographer, writer, lecturer, collector, curator, and the editor of SeeSaw Magazine (, and I was recently completely amazed by this selection of 'Hidden Mothers' that you posted...absolutely mesmerizing!

    SeeSaw Magazine regularly features selections of 'found'/'collected' photography, and I'd very much like to feature a selection of these images in the upcoming issue, due to be released later this month...

    I should clarify that SeeSaw is an online magazine (not print), so I can access the images via the web at an appropriate size (no need to send scans or anything on your part, unless you have more you'd like to show me!) ; all I request from you is your permission to show the images on the SeeSaw Magazine website.

    I very much hope that you'll any case, I hope to hear from you soon - my email is:

    Thanks so much for your time and support, and many congratulations on such an incredible photography collection; please do keep in touch!

    Yours Sincerely,

    Aaron Schuman

    Editor, SeeSaw Magazine

    1. Yes of course! Thanks for your interest! ^_^

    2. You'll appreciate this....the other week I actually found one of these, an original, framed in a thrift store. It is incredible, I'll post it on here soon, I could not contain myself when I discovered it!!!

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  6. Sometimes a pic of just the children was wanted. It wasn't always a mother covered. Sometimes is was the photographers assistant and didn't belong in the photo.