Hidden Mother Photographs

Hidden Mothers | Daguerreotypes | Tintypes | CDV Photos (Carte de Visite) | Cabinet Cards | Antique Postcards | Stereoviews

With the beginnings of photography came Hidden Mothers. A portrait painter had the luxury of portraying a crying and squirming child as calm and beatific, but an early photographer was more limited. Daguerreotypes and tintypes required long exposure times and even the best-behaved child might nervously fidget when surrounded by the strange equipment and props of the studio. Some photographers strapped their younger subjects in to metal devices designed to hold the child still, but an easier solution was to have the mother (or father, or photography assistant) hold the baby.

Often the photographer would drape a blanket over the mother in an attempt to make her indistinguishable from the background. Depending on the skill of the photographer, the mother would appear either as part of the furniture or as a rather sinister figure looming behind the baby.

Harvard University's daguerreotype collection is now available online. This collection include some of the earliest photos of the moon, surgical operations, portraits of James Whistler, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jenny Lind, Horatio Alger and many more. Works are from daguerreotypist pioneers such as John Adams Whipple, Albert Sands Southword and Mathew Brady.

Hidden Mother Photograph