Back when photography was in its infancy and exposures were long, a common trick developed for photographing children and babies. The mothers would drape themselves in a sheet while holding the child to make themselves invisible. The mothers were supposed to be a completely out of view, but there was often some trace – arms reaching out from behind the sheet or the outline of a figure standing eerily looming behind the child.
New Mexico artist Megan Jacobs explored this phenomenon in Hidden Mothers, a recent a photography exhibit where she recreated the images using vibrant sheets and modern takes on motherhood. For Jacobs, the project was about the erasure of self and personal identity that often comes with motherhood. It’s also a metaphor for unrecognized work and the invisibility of domestic spaces.
Below are some examples of hidden mother photography – have a browse, then check out Megan Jacob’s work!