In the early days of portrait photography, photographers would use a variety of tools to keep people still for the long exposure times required to make a picture. When the subject was a child, mothers were often tasked with holding their young ones to keep them from fidgeting. But they were also supposed to stay out of the shot, so the mothers were hidden by lengths of dark fabric, or by other means. Nevertheless, an odd glimpse of face, arm, torso or skirt would frequently make its way into the final image.
Laura Larson, an artist, photographer and writer, became fascinated with these antique images and started a small collection of them several years ago. Around the same time, Laura received her first picture of an Ethiopian infant girl who would become her adopted daughter. Both experiences inform her new book, Hidden Mother.
For this episode of WexCast, we’ll share Laura’s recent artist talk at the Wex in connection with the release of the book, in which she draws out the parallels between the experiences of those partially obscured mothers in antique photographs and of women raising children today.
("Hidden Mother" images from the collection of Lee Marks and John C. DePrez, Jr..)