What are “hidden mother” photographs?

What are "hidden mother" photographs?
There was no Photoshopping people 
out of Victorian tintypes, 
so other methods were used.



In early photographs, a subject had to sit still because of long camera exposure times. When that subject was a squirming baby or small child, they were sometimes held in a lap or reassured by an adult hand, either from a photographer’s assistant, relative, nanny, or father, but primarily by the child’s mother. Whether they’re mothers or not, collectors call these photos "hidden mother photographs."

Since customers wanted photographs that showed only the children, photographers had to get creative to block out the other person.

A mother would drape herself in fabric or attempt to hide herself out of the camera’s view. That way, after the photo was developed, it would be placed behind a mat or frame which would crop out the mother, thereby deceiving the viewer into thinking the child was posing alone.

There were many techniques used to disguise the mother.

What are "hidden mother" photographs?
Here, a mom simply holds her child.

What are "hidden mother" photographs?
When matted, mom is mostly cropped out.

What are "hidden mother" photographs?
Here, you can see the edges of the mat.

What are "hidden mother" photographs?
And the image of mom is hidden
(it’s a haunting image, by the way.) 




Here, she’s both a lap 
and the backdrop holder.


What are "hidden mother" photographs?
The "off to one side" technique

What are "hidden mother" photographs?
The "off to one side, disguised 
as a drape" technique

What are "hidden mother" photographs?

"Hopefully, nobody will notice 

my hand holding up the baby’s head"

What are "hidden mother" photographs?
I think this baby noticed.
(The clamp.)

What are "hidden mother" photographs?
Here, mom disguises herself 
as a chair. Lots of cover is 
provided by baby’s copious gown.

What are "hidden mother" photographs?
Now if the background had been black, 
this might have worked a little better.

 
The inadvertently floating baby – 
a Spiritualist portrait

What are "hidden mother" photographs?
This photo, taken at home, 
eliminates the mother, but how 
can it be matted?
Was she just camera shy? 
Or was she unclear on the concept?

What are "hidden mother" photographs?
Again the covering.
This one is creepy.
Notice that the hood has eye-holes.

What are "hidden mother" photographs?
Scratching out

Sometimes a photographer would scratch out or manipulate a photo to eliminate the face, which might have been done to remove the photographer’s assistant from the picture.

Find the hidden mother

How good could a "hidden mom" hide? Test your skill and try to find where she’s hiding in these 5 photos.

What are "hidden mother" photographs?
Balanced

What are "hidden mother" photographs?
Bewigged

What are "hidden mother" photographs?
Mirror image

What are "hidden mother" photographs?
Puffy chair

What are "hidden mother" photographs?
 Dark

See more hidden mother photographs at this Flickr group: Hidden Mother: Tintypes and Cabinets, Flickr>>
– The Invisible Mother, Retronaut>>

5 thoughts on “What are “hidden mother” photographs?”

  • Because many of these were tintypes, there were no negatives and all the photographs were done as direct positives, so much of the manipulation of the subjects had to be done in front of the camera. But there exist examples of painted tintypes, where an artist not only "improved" the image by adding color to the photograph, but added details such as fancy jewelry or clothing. Some of these images resemble paintings more than photographs.

  • Anonymous says:

    Bonnie, Do you have a reference for the "…added details such as fancy jewelry or clothing."? I have seen example t
    where I believe military uniforms and metals were added to the photo with opaque paint. I would like to know if anyone has more details or examples to demonstrate this.
    –Laura

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