If you’ve ever seen mothers covered up in old photographs, don’t automatically think the worst. It was for a purpose of practicality at the time.
In the Victorian Era of photography, camera’s worked on a very basic level. They needed long exposure times to capture a detailed image. Cameras back then were not at all close to what we have tucked inside our handbags or burnishing our blue jean pockets today. These days a picture-making mechanism has a quick shutter and a sensor so sensitive it can be adjusted to find enough light from even the darkest room to capture a somewhat detailed (altho grainy) image.
Back in the 19th Century, families who wanted pictures of their children (that weren’t blurry) had to come up with a way to get the children to sit still long enough so the camera had time to capture a decent photograph. Most families didn’t have the luxury of choosing many images because, for one thing, there probably weren’t too many good ones to choose from. For another, creating ONE had was priced at the cost of SIX in order to account for the waste of production materials involved in getting one good one.
I know for a fact that kids tend to fuss to get mom’s attention – especially if there is more than one child to be photographed. In order to cut down on wasted time and materials the “hidden mother photography sessions” were born! They figured out that “visible mom” was more of a distraction to the children than “invisible mom.”
Newborns under a year old were rare to photograph. Parents I suspect were more interested in the baby being awake for pictures. Maybe it was a cost thing. Or maybe when baby was asleep, mom just wanted to get things done. Some babies just don’t sleep long and some won’t get to sleep at all when mom schedules the photography session. Whatever the case, newborn sessions in the 19th Century were rare and probably not in the average family’s budget.
These days, newborns are easiest to photograph because there are more options. A sleepy baby however is always the easiest to keep still and photograph. Especially within the first two weeks.
I believe that photographing our tiny humans during the smallest moments in life will create a treasured memory that depicts how miraculous and delicate life is.