19th Century Photo-portraits: ‘Invisible’ mothers and visible babies

A rather curious form of portrait photographs emerged from about the mid to late 19th century – a ‘form innovation’ necessitated by a frailty of early photographic technologies viz. low emulsion sensitivity, and, consequently lengthy exposure times. The subject had to stay still for a fairly long stretch. Photographing adults was less of challenge then, but when it came to restless, excitable babies and children, the mothers were often cloaked or ‘disguised’ as supports for them, to get them to be calm and still. Mothers often covered themselves in black (or other) cloth to hold their children upright for the benefit of the camera. Sometimes the babies were propped upright from behind with the parent’s hands. Extra long child garments were also used to help hide the mother’s legs and body. The resultant images are a telling commentary on 19th century norms and photographic practice, however strange you may find them in the 21st. Take a look.

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Piero Ribelli: 50 Main Street. Same Address. Different People.

New Jersey: Prasop and Saowaluck Kiewdara, South River, NJ

New York based Piero Ribelli undertook a project of a lifetime in stretching his legs across the USA: 6 years, 50 towns, 50 people, 31,000 miles by plane, 16,000 miles by car, 12 hours on trains, 90 minutes on ferryboats. The people in his portraits share only one thing in common – their address of 50 Main Street. A Hasselblad enthusiast, Ribelli does manage to ‘paint’ more than just red, white and blue in his USA. Take a look.

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