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Hidden Mother tells the story of the adoption of Larson’s daughter 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.

“Laura Larson’s much anticipated project is a deftly layered tale of mothers, some occluded by history, and one in particular, told vividly in the first person, of the author’s fraught journey to motherhood. Poignant, haunting photographs, meticulously collected and assembled, combine with an urgent prose narrative to make this book at once a page-turner and a volume of fascination to linger on and revisit many times over.” —Moyra Davey, artist / writer, editor of Mother Reader: Essential Writings on Motherhood

Excerpt from Hidden Mother:
I would wait seven months before bringing Gadisse home, and this time would be measured in photographs, a stream of them that formed a virtual umbilical cord between us. They instructed me—she is growing, she is healthy—but my desire animated them, seizing and elaborating upon the details of her. They reassured me of her presence in the world and reminded me of our separation. Like a hidden mother, I was bound to and separated from my daughter.

Author: Laura Larson
Publisher: Saint Lucy
Pages: 96pp
Size: 4.5 x 7.25
Notes: hardcover, color & b/w
Release Date: January 2017
ISBN: 978-0-692-79927-7