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Monday, January 16, 2012

Motherhood Mondays: Hidden mothers

Years ago, for formal baby photos, the mother would hide under a blanket or rug and hold her baby still for the photographer. How bizarre are these photos?

P.S. More baby photos...

(I linked to this phenomenon a couple weekends ago, but can't help posting it, too. Via Retronaut and Flickr)

148 comments:

Melissa said...

They kind of creep me out!

Fran said...

You should have a look at Ladies in Monochrome - a whole site dedicated to forgotten photos! There's some gems in there! http://ladiesinmonochrome.blogspot.com/

Flo said...

Oh my God that's so creepy!

Posh Pearl said...

Oh my gosh....that's not only bizarre, but a tad scary!

Teresa said...

oh, those are eerie!

Tournesol said...

Wow, I didn't even notice when first looking until you mentioned it. Looked again and it was hard to miss! Very wierd looking! I'll have to look at some of the really old family portraits I have and see if they are the same. Funny.

Nikki Fein said...

Ok, that's a little creepy. Some of these pictures I could see in the opening of 'American Horror Story.'

Katie Ann said...

What a funny keepsake for these families! I wonder if any photos like this are hanging on walls of homes today? I'm sure it strikes up some good conversation!

shear indulgence said...

so creepy, they belong in a scary movie :/

Lauren {Stylized Existence} said...

Whoa!!! - I have to laugh! This is one of the strangest things I've learned in a while - totally awesome info to share with others, though! Thanks Joanna!

Lindsey said...

Those images are sort of disturbing... But it is definitely an interesting fact!

http://lindseyyoung.net

One Woman's Thoughts said...

Oh my . . . it does seem strange.
There is sometimes no explaining on the oddity of human behaviors.

Creepy and comical at the same time.

Lacey Parr said...

These creep me out to no end!

Victoria said...

Very creepy and weird. Why?!

Margarita said...

I knew they used to do that. I think in some cases, when you need to make a passport for a child, they still take the picture so that the mother is hidden. But nowadays they do a better job at hiding, the mother is put behind a curtain, so that it looks like just background fabric. But here - the mothers look like some faceless creatures lurking behind the children to kill them and eat their skin. It's the creepiest thing I've seen in a long time!

Specky and Sally said...

Ah! So creepy!

Linz said...

Eerily similar to the head sack worn by the hanged. :(

Shaylynn;) said...

Holy holy you have an epic amount of blog followers.

AND when I am a mom I'm gonna do the same dang thing, it will be so great.

Sage Crown Parker said...

speechless!

Krista said...

ok.. I LOVE this. So interesting!! Thank you for sharing

Noëmi said...

that's really creepy.

Sylvie said...

Victorian Phtography is full of the weird and wonderful.

SKC said...

Not only is this creepy, but it is also totally obvious that something is under the rug/blanket.

Ashleigh said...

Images like this always remind me of the movie The Others with Nicole Kidman when they find in the house the book of photographs of dead family members.

Very creepy but so interesting!

AC said...

Definitley on the creepy side of things.

Briana said...

totally creepy! like nightmare material!!

yikes!

Megan Muller said...

At first I thought this was weird and then I found myself laughing. This is ridiculous! Haha. Thanks for sharing!

Meg
@MissMegasaurus
www.glamoroushustle.com

cashmeredreams said...

these creep me out!! they remind me of the movie Others with Nicole Kidman where she finds all those photos of the dead people! eek!

champagnecocktailscashmeredreams.blogspot.com/

Catherine said...

I felt a little like this getting a passport photo done of my 7 week old! LOL

Sarah@grownupnow said...

Um can you say creepy? How come they just couldn't sit with their kids without being shrouded in cloth? Too weird.

Girlie Blogger said...

Wow. Never heard of this practice before. Absolutely bizarre.

www.thegirlieblog.com

Stella said...

Oh my ! These pictures are creeping me out not only because of the mothers (seriously, everybody knows you're there), but also because kids are always looking blankly at some imaginary points outside the frame. I remember being a little child and looking at some old (really old) family portrait and thinking to myself that people were sad because the world was in black and white !

http://greatdoings.blogspot.com/

Trina said...

I have to second cashmeredreams; Nicole Kidman finding that "book of the dead" in her gloomy old mansion in The Others totally came to mind when I saw this. Creeeepy...

Jovana M. said...

That is uterly creepy. Not only because she's covered but the old feel of these photographs makes them seem like posters for an upcoming horror movie or something.

Lauren said...

These really creep me out. It's so strange to think of all the things that used to be considered normal!

★ JASMINE ★ said...

That is FREAKY!


How on earth would you discover such a thing? LOL

-> BARBIE-BOMBSHELL.BLOGSPOT.COM

Bakehouseblog said...

Yikes how weird! I have our family album that dates back to victorian times and there are baby photos but no mum hiding! I'm From the UK so maybe it's an American thing?!

mary @ figwittage said...

I agree with many others. CREEPY! It looks as if someone is behind them, like the grim reaper or something!

Miss Cavendish said...

A photographer asked me to do this a number of years ago for my baby's passport photo. It was awkward! Are these images American, British, or both?

Janine said...

In ever knew that. I guess that's one way to keep your kids still. A weird way. I'm glad that went out of style.

Cassandra Marie said...

I normally love old vintage photos, but these are the things horror movies are made of.

Collections said...

Idk who came up with that brilliant idea but these are beyond eerie. I definitely like it better when the mother is shown!

Collections

Sani said...

very strange practice. repulsive photos. who would like to frame this pictures?
on the other hand, when you have a 'bad hair day', this could be good idea! ;)

Beth said...

totally creeped out!

Chelsea C. said...

I have never ever heard of this -- it's so crazy! I feel like this is the premise for some artsy thriller flick. Who's under the blanket?! {Cue creepy music.}

Anonymous said...

Totally wierd! I could understand it for a passport picture where you only want the child's face in close-up, but to have a hidden mother is strange. Such an interesting post.

TennesseeCassie said...

Oh, this happened last year to my husband so that we could get a church photo taken of our infant. Creep-y.

Beth said...

kinda like the awkward family photos

KatieMaye said...

this is truly bizarre! i wonder why they thought this was a better alternative to actually being in the photo???

Stephanie said...

these photos are so creepy and bizarre. kind of at a loss...

Lauren Knight said...

Whoa. This is horror flick scary! Thanks for sharing!

Andie said...

I love creepy things like this, haha. The mothers aren't hidden so much as covered. The concept isn't that weird though, there is a hidden mother baby photo of me but you really can't tell anybody is propping me up since it's a close up photo and the fabric covers the whole back of it.

Anonymous said...

This is more than just creepy - it's a clear statement of how society values and treats women. At this time both women and children were thought of as property of the husband. If the marriage ended, the woman almost never had any rights to custody of her children.

marisol said...

CREEPY!!

BH said...

We totally did this when trying to capture a passport picture for our daughter! (It didn't work very well by the way . . . )

http://miltonsmanor.blogspot.com/2011/01/passport.html

Overlooking Mississippi said...

wow creepy!! I wonder who started this crazy trend..:/


BTW, In celebration of my blog turning two, I decided to do a blog design makeover giveaway for any bloggers interested!

the vintage wren said...

Oh my gosh that's just creepy looking. Poor moms.

Marie said...

"Creepy" and "Bizarre" are just simply words for not taking the time to understand the culture and circumstances of the time. Come on Joanna and Cup of Jo readers - take a little more time to read and understand and I think you will find it is actually quite fascinating!

Nina said...

i already was looking at them the last time you linked to them - they are SO creepy

Kate said...

Those are so creepy! Why didn't someone just shake those women and say "Get out from under that blanket already!"

Pam Potts said...

Wow, that is so fascinating and a little sad at the same time. Things have sure change to the extreme these days. Very interesting article, "Cup of Jo." Pam Potts www.weecareclinic.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I suppose if the pictures were cropped to become just portraits of the children, they would seem ok. Actually seeing the hidden mother makes them strange.

Charlotte said...

Bizarre? Bloody frightening would be more accurate!

Erika said...

These are absolutely amazing, thank you for sharing them. I see an obsession for these coming on very quickly.

simplethingstolove said...

Judging only from photos of Victorian infants and no actual research, I would think these photos provide for cropped photos of the child. However this does not explain how this could not be achieved a little less severely. Surely the children also found this overwhelming.

toytulip said...

Oh my God! I had never heard of this before! It is sooo creepy! Didn't anyone else think of that in those times? :D

Bree said...

Has Toby gotten his passport yet? Because this is exactly what I've had to do each time my daughters have gotten their passport photos taken. Thankfully it is a cropped picture so you can't see me, but the first time I did it 5 years ago I thought it was, alternately, totally bizarre and kind of genius when you think about taking a very precise picture of a tiny baby.

Monica said...

yeah that's really creepy but believe it or not ITS STILL HAPPENING! Well atleast in the 90s! There's a picture of me when I was 1 in 1991 and i'm standing on a chair and my mom is standing behind holding me up! But ofcourse all of that is edited in the final picture... But these take it too far with the black really

Diane Cayton-Hakey said...

Creepy! Wonder what photographer came up with THIS idea, as if no one would notice the elephant in the room?

anna newell jones said...

beyond creepy! like carpeted ghosts!

Sammi said...

They look like those horrid victorian death photos

Sprout said...

Interesting it didn't scare the kiddos. Well, the cutie in the 2nd photo does look a bit frightened. I don't blame him!

Tori said...

That's hilarious/so creepy.

On another note, I just love your blog and was wondering if you could do some more beauty posts? i.e. your beauty/skin routine or those of friends, product recs, etc.

Thanks for a great read!

Bea, OT said...

Wow! I didn't realize they did this. I can't understand it. Why? If it was necessary, why not hide it better? That is so weird! Thanks for sharing.

I wonder what the children think about these pictures now.

dreaming en francais said...

Definitely a little creepy!

http://dreamingenfrancais.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

How about for Motherhood Mondays you share with the world what so many families should be teaching their children? To accept and love one another.

It seems like you stray away from bringing up what today is really all about. Martin Luther King Jr.

Anonymous said...

Oh, this was disappointing Jo...

These "creepy" women you have judged and mocked look really similar to Muslim women that wear the niqab/burqa. As someone who grew up with a mother in a niqab, making fun of women who look so similar to a group already oppressed and dehumanized by the media (and the U.S. government) is a really crappy thing to do.

How about you exercise some tolerance, understanding and compassion for people? Motherhood Mondays could benefit from that...

Anonymous said...

CREEPY

Michemily said...

I posted about this on Facebook a few weeks ago, and a friend pointed out this modern-day version to me. Yikes!

http://www.elizabethhalford.com/2010/11/02/a-pull-back-from-todays-newborn/

Taylor said...

this is fascinating. i am graduating in may with a degree in history...i'd love to research this to find out the origins behind it. what a strange tradition!

Annabelle said...

Wow, that is bizarre! We have some family photos from that time period but thankfully none of them have the hooded mother in them. The things you learn...

Janna said...

This is so interesting! I love the eeriness, and it's just funny how conspicuous they are.

dizzy_izzy said...

Creepy!!!

Callie said...

Very funny.
thebrightsideproject.blogspot.com

Pamela S. Mosher said...

How old are these photos, do you know? And where were they taken - somewhere in Europe maybe?

Becca - (extra)ordinary wonders said...

So strange!

Courtney Snowden said...

I actually wish I had the good fortune of being shrouded in some of my family pictures from the 80's...

cosette said...

kinda creepy!

cassandra said...

how...discreet

http://itsthelittle-things.blogspot.com

Maggie said...

My mom has one a picture of her older brother when he was a baby, so 70ish years ago & he is sitting in a chain but my grandmother is holding him from behind through a blanket. You can't see her body, just blanket hands. Haha, it's very funny.

supergirl said...

We forget how long it took to take a photo back then. They weren't snapshots that happen almost instantly- those didn't really start happening until the early 1900's. Daguerrotypes,ambrotypes, and tintypes (early forms of photographs like the ones shown) took minutes of exposure time to capture an image. children are hard enough to photograph now- try holding them in place for minutes at a time. That's why so few early photographs are of smiling people- try holding a smile for three minutes. Ouch!

A Sunday Kind Of Love said...

this is so strange. I understand the mother's having to hold their babies, but why weren't they just IN the photo? or conversely, why didn't they crop the photo so the mother-shaped lump wasn't in it? weird!

this kind of reminds me of being in egypt though- the covered women and normally dressed children.
the strangest thing for me there wasn't the women being fully covered, it was them fully covered and carrying their toddler dressed in a dora the explorer t-shirt and shorts! (or walking with their husband who would be wearing an armani jeans t-shirt, flashy sunglasses, and skinny jeans).

everydayinstilettos said...

That is the craziest thing ever!

Livyb said...

This makes me wonder if I have seen old photos like this and not realized the mom was there. I know it shouldn't be, but they are creepy!

Kristin said...

Ahh! That's weird...and creepy..and, well, why didn't they want to be in the pictures??? I know that, back then, people had bad teeth, didn't want to smile, etc., but really?? I have a history degree and I've never seen anything like that!

Margaret said...

one of the photos on the retronaut site showed a man holding the baby...i could see his pants and we know the ladies weren't wearing pants back then!

Caity said...

they are INCREDIBLY bizarre! wow. just wow, i don't even know what to say about these pictures. . .

etoilee8 said...

That is so weird!! I wonder if the children were ever freaked out be this. Haha.

Joanna Goddard said...

the photos were generally cropped, so it only showed the children, BUT it still seems crazy because the mother would still be seen in the shots with multiple children. just seems really bizarre...! :)

VintageDanielle said...

Very creepy and sad. Why couldn't they just crouch below the seating.

yours truly said...

Oh my! Those are going to give me nightmares!

Erica @ Acire Adventures said...

Totally bizarre.. creepy even! I was wondering what in the world those poor women had done wrong to be covered by a sheet like that.

Angelica B. said...

Reminds me of the movie Beetlejuice when then Maitlands try to scare Lydia by covering themselves in bedsheets. Ooooo! So scary and ghostlike!

bevy said...

hmmmm...as a joke I may have to try this, hahaha.

Ahka Vintage said...

This is quite strange isn't it? I've never seen it before!

Ahka Vintage SHOP
Ahka Vintage BLOG

margaretedith said...

Wow. This is incredible and so weird. How on earth did you come across this?

Anonymous said...

Interesting how it was not considered so weird at the time. Perhaps the hidden person was just a maid or servant, thus the family did not want them in the phtoos to be seen deerations into the future. Since the majority of photos have the mothers with their babies, these are just a human holdin still active babies who cannot conform to a very slow shutter speed. PS. I was intially disturbed until I thought of a rational reason.
Jennifer in France

Marie Soderberg said...

creepy..and weird..but perhaps the mother was in the front to wave for her baby... :)

K said...

Holly, this looks so weird! So opposite to now days when coming mums get a photographer to take pic's their naked bellys ect (by the way LOVE that trend, look sso cute!!)!

love K

Noor said...

wow thats really weird lol I live in Saudi Arabia and it looks like the kinda of pictures women would still get here lol.,

aurea @ pricewise events said...

Oh yeah, I've seen this in one site and this totally creeps me out!

astrid irene natalie said...

Yikes. The third one down with the curtains draped over the mother's head made me laugh though :)

AnastasiaC said...

Victorian creepiness! Obviously this was before styling props...haha...

pieface said...

Creepy McCreeperton, the creep-tastic mayor of Creepville called to say this is way to creepy, even for her. Seriously creepy.

StyleLinx said...

How disturbing!...but interesting!

Ancarol said...

Silly and fun .Child just can't leave without mama ... cute face .

Tish said...

The crazy part is my mom used to do that...well not a blanket/lap situation but I know there was a pic of a white bump near me in one shot lol...

Powers Of Love said...

Made me laugh. Freaky indeed. How about the girl who is old enough to stand there on her own. What in the world did sheet Mom have to be in the pic to hold her hand for? LOL! Thanks for sharing.

Alex said...

CREEPY.

mosey said...

wow! how incredibly weird!

melifaif said...

Oh wow. That there is beyond creepy. Ewwwww.....poor babes!

Anonymous said...

Are these their mothers or are they the nannies or other servants who work with the children? It would make sense that the wealthier families would have their childrens' portraits taken with their caretakers.

the cape on the corner said...

i can't get past these "american horror story" esque babies. and those mothers...i thought they were just chairs. creepers!

Katherine said...

Very interesting haha I have to say that it freaked me out a little! I have to admit that in my first borns 3 month photos I held her back and neck from under a blanket but you really couldnt tell. I think I would have drawn the line at putting a curtain,carpet or blanket over my head. haha

The Remarkable Redhead said...

Oh, now that you point it out, its terrifying! Makes me wonder if all old portraits have been like that and I've been missing it the whole time.

Michelle Renee said...

I just laughed my head off! Thanks for this post!

Michele said...

I love this! See mothers have been doing stupid looking things for their kids for a long time! Come on, what mother can't see herself being convinced to hide under a rug so that a photo of her kids would turn out. sure, no one will notice...

themama23 said...

So creepy and really kind of sad. I've never seen anything like this before.

Gracie said...

Woah

Stephanie said...

They reminds me of memento mori photographs

Lottie Essig said...

Oh that's too funny! These are hilarious --- and a tad creepy as others have mentioned... I wonder why they didn't just take a picture WITH Mom in it??

Amy said...

It should probably be noted that many of these photos were then cut to put in pins and lockets, so you never actually saw the mother- it just looked like a background. These pictures took several minutes to take- that's the beauty of instant photography now!

TaNeesha said...

creepers! thx for sharing.

Morlee said...

I'm not kidding when I say, this is probably the creepiest thing I've ever seen!

Anonymous said...

I was told years ago that if a woman died and there had never been a picture of her with her child/ren, there would be a photo like this made....with the mom under wraps. Either way, it is tragic to see those women in burkhas!

Patricia Ann said...

Whenever I see old photos like these, I get flashbacks from that movie with Nicole Kidman in "The Others", where she found a bunch of photographs in this same style where the people were sitting in front of the camera but they were dead. Um... creepy.

Family Portraits said...

Oh my God that's so nice.I LOVE this. So interesting!Thank you for sharing ..

K. said...

this is crazy!!!!!

Anonymous said...

They also took photos of dead children and babies, propped up doing their best to make them look alive Link: All Things Dark and Gruesome shows many of these creepy, goth photos. Now days you can Photoshop mom out. A long way we have come!

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Jonathan said...

That under the blanket thing gives me a real goosebump :)

http://genius-mom.blogspot.com

Maria said...

That is SO creepy! Why couldn't they just appear in the photos??

Maria xx
www.cheekypinktulip.blogspot.com

Darlene Schacht said...

That creeps me out too. LOL! Yikes.

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Anonymous said...

How funny..kind of like us trying to hang on to the baby and just our arms or hands showing. The seventh picture down of the mom and the three children..that's very obvious..but what strikes me as funny is the little one on the right (girl?) is showing a bit of attitude and leaning away from mom. Looks like somebody didn't want to listen :)

Manuel said...

Magnífica colección de fotografias antiguas, además muy raras, jamás había visto el detalle de la cara de la madre tapada. Me gustaría saber cual era el motivo.
Un cordial saludo.

Unknown said...

As it turns out, there are perfectly logical explanations for the practice, as several readers have noted in their comments on the continued use of "hidden mothers" to take photographs of infants. There are also lots of interesting implications for the way we think about class and gender, and how we have thought about them in the past.

Here's the popular media version of the history: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2155681/Old-portraits-children-creepy-ghostmothers-background-far-mums-good-photo.html

Academic versions:
Di Bello, Patricia. Women's Albums and Photography in Victorian England: Ladies, Mothers and Flirts (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007).

Green-Lewis, Jennifer. Framing the Victorians: Photography and the Culture of Realism (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell UP, 1996).

Spence, Jo and Patricia Holland, eds. Family Snaps: The Meaning of Domestic Photography (London: Virago, 1991 and 2000).

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