In the 19th century, when photography was still in its infancy, images had to be exposed for long durations before being captured on film. The long exposure time gave way to curious Victoria-era photography conventions as subjects tried to remain perfectly still to avoid a blurry photograph.
And back then, children were just as squirmy as they are today. In an effort to keep a child still during a photo shoot, figures (presumably mothers) would sometimes appear as camouflaged figures in the scene — covered head to toe in sheets or blankets.
The result is a rather unsettling and haunting image that has come to be known as a “hidden mother.” We chat with curators at the Ohio Historical Society who share with us some of the haunting Hidden Mother photographs in their collections and try to explain their meaning.