To our modern eyes, Victorian photography can look pretty damned sinister and these photographs of hidden mothers grasping their children from under black shrouds are no exception, but just like Cole Sear in The Sixth Sense, we might be seeing dead people.
Due to the long exposure times needed to get a crisp portrait shot, wriggly young children had to be held still by their mothers, who clearly didn't want to steal their offsprings moment in the spotlight, but now some photographers and vintage fanatics are theorizing that some of these children might in fact have been deceased while their portraits were taken.
The Victorian era is well known for its macabre mementos of dead loved ones such as trinkets woven from the hair of the deceased, but it is the memento mori photos posed with family members who have already passed on that often captures the morbid imagination.
Although it might seem disturbing to us, photography was very expensive at the time and these shots are likely to be the only photos ever taken of the deceased and they served as a precious memoir to those left behind.
While the subtle motion blur in a lot of hidden mother photos show they are clearly of living, moving children who are simply being held in place, some of them seem to show children who are eerily still. This has led to speculation that the mother's role in some circumstances could have been to pose their dead infants in more naturalistic poses as opposed to simply photographing them laying down.
Some of the images that prompted suspicion that hidden mother photos could also be memento mori shots are shown below:
Although the idea that these children could be deceased and cradled in their grieving mothers arms might seem impossibly macabre, one particular image of a confirmed postmortem photograph with a hidden mother in the background seems to suggest that this theory is not too far-fetched.
While it's eerie enough looking at images of people who are, by now, all inevitably deceased, the thought that some of them might have left their mortal coil before the photos were taken adds a whole new unsettling dimension.
I can't even come close to imagining the pain that these mothers felt if they really are cradling their dead infants while shrouded in blankets, but it's easy to empathize with the lengths they were willing to go through to preserve a treasured memory.
(Source: Ridiculously Interesting)