Milky Way is a series of photographs documented by Vincent Ferrané in his new book currently available at Libraryman. The images tenderly denote his wife and child during breastfeeding, through a chronological and diary-like narrative. “I tried to show in this series how breastfeeding appears as a pulse that gradually takes its part in the other cycles of life — such as those of nature, the seasons, and of days and nights,” Vincent explains. “These [images] are ambivalent moments of strength and fusional fullness, but also of difficult moments that can sometimes be harsh and tiring.” (Some of these images may be considered NSFW).
As the months go by, breastfeeding becomes a rhythmic part of the protagonist’s life; Milky Way begins with frozen landscapes and concludes in spring, portraying a systematical format with the consistent use of composition and light throughout. The book’s structure is similar to that of a metronome, in the sense that it presents the ongoing nurturing that takes place between mother and child. “The series presented in the book is somewhat similar to a diary…It’s spread over several months until the last day of breastfeeding. It includes several landscapes and outdoor pictures showing the time passing, or more specifically what you could see out of the window from the house,” he says. “I did not want to do a report on breastfeeding but rather a focus on certain feelings and atmospheres — the way that these moments put you in a sort of fluffy and parallel time dimension.”
“Milky Way is a reference to a Greek myth: it’s the story of milk, produced from the breast of the goddess Era, which is then used to create the milky way in the sky. It also literally refers to the experience you go through while breastfeeding during the first months of a baby’s life. The whole series assumes this balance between everyday reality, poetic symbols and myths.”
The aesthetics of the series is determined by feeding behaviour. In this sense, the ways in which breastfeeding imposes on the body and on the space it occupies. “I tried to focus on all the aesthetics surrounding the little adjustments: the ways to give the breast to the baby, to sit, hold or pose, as well as the way the baby grabs the chest and seems to fuse with his mother,” explains Vincent. “So I tried to keep this in mind when photographing the scenes — it’s a bit like two dancers.”
When asked about how he deals with such a personal subject matter, Vincent explains how it’s vital to balance the more intimate projects with commercial work. “I’m always happy to do portraits, a fashion series or advertisement but I don’t want to forget what drove me to become a photographer. Taking pictures of people and moments you truly love is the most important thing. So I started this candid series as a father — a father-photographer. During breastfeeding, as a father you are emotionally involved but you are also distanced. Taking the pictures gives you a role of active spectator. Your own family is a real subject, especially towards the aspect of revealed intimacy,” Vincent says.
“My wife and I agreed that the elements of nudity in the series — like a lactating breast, for example — were revealing the role of a mother in a meaningful, modern and strong way.”