Hidden Mother tells the story of my daughter Gadisse’s adoption from Ethiopia as mapped through nineteenth-century hidden mother photographs. The term “hidden mother” refers to the widespread but little-known practice in 19th-century portrait photography of concealing a mother’s body as she supported and calmed her child during the lengthy exposures demanded by early photographic technology. In the final portrait of the child, the mother—often covered from head-to-toe in a black drop cloth—appears as an uncanny figure. A practical strategy deployed by the photographer unintentionally yielded an evocative representation of the mother; never meant to be seen, her presence nonetheless haunts these images. Part photography book, part essay, Hidden Mother enlists these strange and powerful images to present a lyrical account of becoming a mother through adoption.
My fundraising goal will support the design and printing of the book. The manuscript is 75 pages long and incorporates twenty-five plates. The book will be hard bound and printed in 4-color offset in an edition of 500. If I exceed my fundraising goal, I will increase the print run. I am committed to producing a beautiful book with high quality reproductions of these exquisite photographs.
Hidden Mother presents an overview of this fascinating vernacular practice as it appears in a range of early photographic media. The book will reproduce photographs from my personal collection as well as the collection of Lee Marks and John C. DePrez, Jr.
As a companion project to the book, I’ve organized a traveling exhibition of “hidden mother” photographs. Emerging in recent years as popular collectibles, these photographs still remain largely unknown to photo-experts and the general public alike. In introducing this vernacular form, the exhibition contributes to the expanding awareness of the historically pervasive role of artifice in the medium that “never lies,” while illuminating the powerful resonance that these obscure, 19th-century pictures hold for timeless concerns of motherhood. The exhibition has traveled to Blue Sky Gallery, Portland, OR; Palmer Museum of Art, State College, PA; and is currently on view at the Allen Memorial Art Museum in Oberlin College through December 23, 2015.
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Receive a personalized ode to your generosity on Facebook
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Receive an autographed copy of Hidden Mother and invitations to the book launches in Athens, OH, Columbus, OH, and New York City
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Receive two autographed copies of “Hidden Mother.” Give one to a friend! You will also receive invitations to the book launches in Athens, OH, Columbus, OH, and New York City. Bring a date!
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Receive a signed, limited edition 8 x 10″ gelatin silver print from my Domestic Interiors series, an autographed copy of Hidden Mother, and invitations to the book launches in Athens, OH, Columbus, OH, and New York City. This print is from an edition of 100 and these are the last ten available.
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Receive a signed, limited edition 16 x 20″ digital print from my new series, Recherchés Sur La Sexualité, an autographed copy of Hidden Mother, and invitations to the book launches in Athens, OH, Columbus, OH, and New York City