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When it comes to children's portrait photography, some things never change. While cameras and technology have made significant advances in the last 150 years, children, sadly, have not.
Almost every parent you talk to has a horror story of having to deal with a squirming, distracted or completely melted down child on picture day and our Victorian ancestors were no different.
With photography and cameras still relatively in their infancy in the 1800s, subjects had to sit perfectly still from anywhere between 30 seconds to several minutes to get a crisp, clear image. No instant snaps like today!
So when it came to photographing wiggly children, mothers had to get creative and thus the genre of "hidden mother" photography was born!
Mothers (and sometimes fathers, nannies or the photographer's assistant) would be hidden within the frame behind curtains, under blankets or sometimes even disguised as the chair itself! Other techniques such as paper overlays, artful cropping or physically scratching or removing parts of mother's photo in post production also were employed to help keep the focus of the portrait on the child.
Sadly, as cameras advanced, the practice of hidden mother photography eventually went by the wayside. Fortunately, we still have these wonderful images to remind us of this quirky craze concocted by some pretty smart Moms!
This petite portrait has a real ghostly quality to it thanks in part to being an ambrotype.
Introduced in the early 1850s, an ambrotype is a photographic process on glass where an underexposed glass negative is placed against a dark background to create a positive image.
Since the mother's frock is black in this portrait (and therefore colorized by the inside of the frame), it gives the child a 3-dimensional, floating appearance. It's really quite cool in person.
Definitely a good one to add to the collection (or to start your new collection)!
Materials: Glass, brass
Measurements: 2" x 2.5"
Unfortunately, the mother's head does have some damage (which we personally think adds just the right amount of creep factor). It is hard to say whether her head was scratched out or removed in post production or whether it sustained damage at some point in its life, but some of the black backing has adhered to the glass negative where her head should be. It also has adhered slightly at the top of the child's head as well. Personally, we think the flaws actually add to the image but it is all a matter of personal choice.