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Hidden Mothers: 17 Bizarrely Fascinating 19th Century Baby Portraits

Hidden Mother

Can you spot the invisible mom?

Do you struggle to get the perfect shot of your baby? Unless you’re Anne Geddes or can afford a professional photographer, then you already know it’s not easy to get a little baby to pose perfectly or cleverly for a photo.

Way before PhotoShopping and sticking babies in baskets of cabbage were en vogue, moms used to use themselves as props—literally—to get portrait shots of their babies. It was a 19th century practice known as “hidden mothers,” in which moms covered themselves up and then held their babies on their laps. The photos were then cropped or matted, but the uncropped versions have, uh, cropped up in recent times and they’re f-a-s-c-i-n-a-t-i-n-g.

Take a look at the kind of creepy yet seriously cool photos (courtesy of and see how baby photography has come a long way, baby:


nggallery id=’112824′

  • Blanket Issues 1 of 17
    Blanket Issues
    Um, could they not have secured a longer blanket for the occasion? Awkward!
  • Sisters 2 of 17
    That baby looks like she's got it out for her big sister. Mom had better hold on tight.
  • Big Girl 3 of 17
    Big Girl
    You'd think she might be old enough to pose without her mom by her side. Although maybe she agrees and that's why she appears less than chipper.
  • Don’t Get Too Comfy 4 of 17
    Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 5.41.55 PM
    It can be hard to strike a balance between getting comfortable and getting so comfortable that you refuse to get up once the photo session has ended.
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to a Great Photo? 5 of 17
    The Hitchhiker's Guide to a Great Photo?
    Either this mom's arm was in a brace of some sort or she was trying to kill two birds with one stone and hitch a ride home while getting a picture of Junior.
  • 19th Century Darth Vader 6 of 17
    19th Century Darth Vader
    The stuff nightmares are made of.
  • Darth Vader, Part Deux 7 of 17
    Darth Vader, Part Deux
    What's scarier: Darth Vader or the size of that baby's skirt?
  • Darth III 8 of 17
    Darth III
    That baby totally just got what's frightening about her current situation.
  • And Mommy Makes Four 9 of 17
    And Mommy Makes Four
    Couldn't Big Brother have sat on the chair and held the baby? But then we wouldn't have this gem, now would we?
  • And Mommy Makes Four—Again? 10 of 17
    Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 10.04.47 AM
    Really? One of the older kids really couldn't hold the baby?
  • To the Left, To the Left 11 of 17
    To the Left, To the Left
    Just a few inches to the left, Mom, and then this isn't nearly as awkward as it seems.
  • Bad Hair Day 12 of 17
    Bad Hair Day
    Something's wrong with this photo, and it might be the only time when Mom isn't to blame.
    Hint: Try a side part instead of that middle one that makes you look like a grown man who belongs in a barbershop quartet.
  • A White Sheet . . . 13 of 17
    A White Sheet . . .
    . . . is what might have fixed this Mom issue.
  • Yikes 14 of 17
    Either this is an early Klan shot or you definitely have some sheet issues that need immediate addressing.
  • Issues, Issues 15 of 17
    Issues, Issues
    This sheet has issues, too. Big ones.
  • Even More Issues 16 of 17
    Even More Issues
    If you didn't have a long enough sheet, could you have at least asked someone who did? And maybe also ask for one without the fringe? Your little boy will thank you later.
  • Before and After 17 of 17
    Before and After
    Thank goodness there were mattes before there was PhotoShop.


All images courtesy of

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