Victorian photography studios loved a good illusion, whether it was to accommodate the long exposure time, or play with it.
While spirit photography is pretty well-known (thanks in large part to Lincoln’s “ghost”), here are a few other tricks that you might not know about. Recently, Linda Fregni Nagler published a book called The Hidden Mother where she compiled over a thousand photographs of a parent masquerading as a chair beneath a cloak. As the exposure could take a good part of a minute, and children aren’t exactly thrilled to sit still for their portraits, parents would hide and hold them still. But the results were kind of creepy — like specters looming up behind the uneasy kids. There was always this sense of a high mortality, too, especially for children, making the ghostly presences especially ominous.
Below are some of these “hidden mothers” (and possibly fathers, although it’s hard to tell, of course), as well as other Victorian photography tricks and illusions, where death was always around the corner, and the medium of photography was just starting to be a part of life. And other things that we might not consider as tricks now — like coloring photographs — was as fantastic as a person holding their head (well, almost).
In addition to the exposure time, Victorians also experimented with aligning two different exposures. Curiously, what seemed to fascinate them most was creating decapitations.
However, sometimes it wasn’t always so creepy, at least in the disembodied way, as people also had photographs taken with themselves through double exposures.
Many people didn’t get their photograph taken until they weren’t around to appreciate it, but that didn’t stop them from looking alive, or as close to it as painted eyes can get you.
The Painted Backdrop
And finally, something that might not seem like a trick, but reflects how the medium of painting was still very much present in the way photographs were stage (in addition to the painted eyes).
Coasting the Topography of South Asian Futurisms
As part of Hyperallergic’s Emily Hall Tremaine Journalism Fellowship for Curators, Sadaf Padder presents an exhibition to offer insight into her curatorial process.
I’m a Florida Drag Queen and I’m Scared
I’m truly at a loss for what to do for work and what kind of life I can expect to live.
Pratt’s 2023 Fine Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition Is On View in Brooklyn
The two-part exhibition features the work of 41 graduating artists across disciplines, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and integrated practices.
An Artist’s Hopeful Vision of the Ocean
Indonesian artist Mulyana crafts a tactile, mystical world in which fish, whales, and coral reefs coexist with sea monsters.
An Introduction to “Afrogallonism”
Serge Attukwei Clottey explores Ghanaian culture and identity through discarded jerrycans and other found materials.
The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation Presents The Feminine in Abstract Painting
Curated by Jennifer Samet and Andrea Belag, this group exhibition in NYC explores the feminine through aesthetics, as opposed to identity or gender.
A Ride With Liz Cohen
Nothing in the artist’s personal biography could predict that she’d one day become a car builder and bikini model.
LA’s Hammer Museum Wants to Be Seen
After two decades of renovations, the museum that calls itself a “well-kept secret” reopens with a mission to be more visible.
NYU Steinhardt Opens 2023 MFA Thesis Exhibitions
Taking place at 80WSE Gallery in New York’s Greenwich Village, Part I is on view from late March through April while Part II opens in May.
AI-Generated “Dope Francis” Fools the Internet
Many thought the picture of Pope Francis in a puffer jacket, created using Midjourney, was the real deal.
1,400-Year-Old Mural of Two-Faced Man Found in Peru
Historians hypothesize that the Moche paintings could represent artists’ attempts to experiment with portraying movement or narrative.
Miniature Worlds: Joseph Cornell, Ray Johnson, Yayoi Kusama
Through small-scale works, this exhibition at the Katonah Museum of Art in New York examines Cornell’s prominent role in the lives and careers of Johnson and Kusama.
Louvre Shutters as Pension Plan Protests Intensify
President Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 has sparked widespread demonstrations across the country.
They Managed to Mess Up an Art Heist Movie
There must be a lesson in Vasilis Katsoupis’s film Inside about the vacuousness of the art market or the claustrophobia of exhibition spaces — I just don’t care.
Ms. Meier: Again, you ferret out the frighteningly bizarre.
Cindy Sherman showed some of these in the room she curated at the Venice Biennale this year. I understand they wanted a picture of the child, but why wouldn’t it be okay or even better (and more relaxing for the child) to see the mom holding him/her?
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