6    Jul 20138 comments

Photos from the Past: Hidden Mothers

Photography is a great way to document our ancestors and to learn more about who they are, even just from their portraits.

Since the late-19th century, photography has become much more accessible and affordable for middle class families, yet taking a photo back then was a very different experience from today's.

A 19th-century photographer

Two centuries ago, there were no “instant” photos. Those posing for photographs had to remain in position - patiently - for five minutes to get the perfect image.

For infants and small children, the "sitting still" requirement proved difficult as photographers had to find ways to keep them quiet while taking their portrait.

How did they solve this predicament? Understanding that infants feel comfortable next to their mothers, photographers brought them into the photo, but camouflaged!

A child rests in the arms of its "hidden" mother

A relatively common practice, these “hidden” mothers held their babies tight, so the photographer could record a sharper image.

A mother was covered beneath a beautiful fabric, while the child was placed on her lap for the photograph.

A child posing on the lap of its mother

What do you think of these “hidden” photographs? Do you have any similar photos in your family? Let us know in the comments below, on Facebook, Twitter and on Google +.

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Comments (8) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Great. Sure wish my family had left me some photos of my family, it would be great to know where you've come from.
    Thank you for these.
  2. Too bad these children couldn't see their mothers. Wonder if they even have a picture of their mother.
  3. oh how far we have come---you would have thought that getting a picture of mom would be just as important.........
  4. had to be...
    the MOTHER....a child to sit still 5 min..not even now ?
  5. I guessed it was on sombodys lap,The Mother being the fist choice.
  6. So it is possible that we have photographs of our female ancestors without knowing about it ... I am off to the photo box for a look!
  7. I have hundreds of photos taken of my family most of then we don't know who the are but just to look at then and see the beginnings of my family are great
  8. Educational and interesting article. More of these! (for example on how to conserve, retouch and show old photographs).

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