In Linda Fregni Naglers collection of hidden-mother photographs, we encounter mothers as ghostly furniture: blanketed silhouettes invisible before the lens. The once common practice of hidden-mother photography has faded away entirely since the 1920s. But if a mother is not holding her child, huddled behind a curtain or beneath a blanket, then where is she? Is she visible at all? Can we see our own mothers in our photos? Can we make out other peoples mothers in theirs? Sharing a selection of photos from books, photography studios, advertisements, the internet, and family albums, I attempt to identify the mothersconventional, overt, instrumental, and iconicwho gaze out at us from these images.
Iman Mersal is an Egyptian poet, essayist, translator and literary scholar, and Associate Professor of Arabic Language and Literature at the University of Alberta, Canada. She is the author of five books of Arabic poetry, selections from which have been translated into numerous languages. Her most recent publications include How to Mend: Motherhood and its Ghost, translated into English by Robin Moger (Kayfa Ta and Sternberg Press - Berlin, 2018). And In the Footsteps of of Enayat al-Zayyat, 2019 which was awarded the prestigious Shaykh Zayed award for literature in 2021.