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April 19, 2013

The Hidden Parent: These Victorian Baby Pictures Are Filled With Hidden People Are Really Creepy!

Can you spot the hidden parents in these 19th century photographs?

Hidden parent photography is a genre of photography common in the Victorian era in which young children were photographed with their parent present but hidden in the photograph. It arose from the need to keep children still while the photograph was taken due to the long exposure times of early cameras.

The daguerreotypes that became publicly available during the 1840s had exposure times from tens of seconds to several minutes. While exposure times shrank as photographic technology developed, to get a clear picture of a child during the 19th century the child had to be persuaded to stay still, which could be difficult to achieve.

One technique was for the mother—sometimes the father, a nanny or the photographer’s assistant—to be hidden within the frame, often behind curtains, under cloaks, or disguised as chairs. Mothers were also sometimes obscured simply by removing parts of the photograph afterward, or by them standing slightly off to one side so they could be cropped out. How successfully the mother was hidden varied. Sometimes, simply draped with fabric, their shape would be obvious. In some photographs, arms are clearly visible. A paper overlay could be used when framing the photograph to hide the parts showing the mother, focusing on the child instead. The practice of hidden mother photography continued into the 1920s, fading away as cameras became faster and more ubiquitous.

(Photos via Crafty Dogma)


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