The other day my girl came across a handful of portraits, where there was an eerie cloaked figure behind the infants covered in a black sheet or ornate rug. so I did an interwebs dig and found that we had unwitting stumbled upon Ghost Mother Photography the overwhelming Weird 1800s photography practice that kind make the freaky pixie photos craze of the 1980’s look normal.
In the early days of photography, many well-off families jumped at the chance to have their precious children's likeness captured for eternity. But even in the late 1800s, getting a confused baby to sit still for a photograph forced otherwise normal parents to behave like lunatics. Sometimes it required the mother to hide herself under a carpet so it looked like their child was sitting upright of his or her own volition. The child would be sitting upright on the lap of their cloaked parent, which is odd because many of the babies would not be able to do so at that point in their life, but also because the viewer is expected to completely ignore the bizarre figure that is clearly behind the child.Other tactics involved the parent creeping in the background or inserting a phantom limb into the shot. In any case, these attempts at naturalistic portraits produced anything but. s As a result, many photographers enlisted the help of the children's mothers, with often creepy outcomes. These children look like they're about to be kidnapped by angry poltergeist
19th Century photo-portraits were challenging for sitters because of the low emulsion sensitivity and consequently lengthy exposure times. In the case of children, one stress-reducing device for keeping them still was to cloak mothers and disguise them as a support on or against which the child rested.
Sometimes the floating appendages and fabric lumps were excised by picture frame borders; sometimes they weren't.
Real point: Mostly, the mother's presence was just to keep the child calm and still during the sometimes-gruelingly long photo sessions. Parents clearly tried whatever they could to make the portraits come off as natural, but unfortunately, that was hardly the case. I'm particularly fond of the pictures that scratch out the adults' faces, thereby making the final product resemble Ringwraith Family Portrait Day at the county emporium.