Self-effacing mothers

Here‘s a fascinating article about how babies were made to sit through the long exposure necessary to have their portrait taken in the nineteenth century – mothers dressed up as chairs, holding them.

Here is a slideshow of the photos.

One question is whether it was always mothers – as opposed to fathers, or servants – who held the babies, or whether that’s something the journalist, Bella Bathurst, assumes.

Another point of interest, noted in the article, is that many of the photographers were women.

An interesting topic for an aesthetics class, I think.

3 thoughts on “Self-effacing mothers

  1. One reason that women went into photography professionally was that it was a new technology (as of 1839) and there were no restrictive guilds and organizations keeping them out, at least in the beginning. In the US the Civil War also provided women photographers with an opportunity for expansion. Also, some states, particularly in the western US, seemed very open to women in the workforce, compared with states in the east and south.

  2. Another thought is that photography is a ‘democratic’ art, as Scruton puts it (not in a nice way, though). It’s a lot easier to get hold of a camera and go out and about learning to photograph things than it is to find time, space and resources to paint. A great example of a self-taught photographer is Vivian Maier, who took to the streets on her days off from her child-minding job, and created amazing pictures. Of course, developing is a rather more expansive business, so a lot of her photos stayed in the rolls. See this for details of her life and works:

  3. Yes, I love Vivian Maier’s work.

    In the early years of photography, though, it was very expensive and difficult. Making daguerreotypes required expensive equipment that was difficult to move around and knowledge of chemistry since one generally mixed and handled one’s own chemicals. There were a good many women photographers in those early years, though not much written about today.

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