Vincent Ferrané doesn’t submit to romanticism. Awash with crumpled bed sheets, misplaced breast pumps and spilt milk, photographic series Milky Way, is an honest depiction of the realities of breastfeeding. His beautifully raw photographs chronicle the rhythm and disorder of family life. Set within the home, Vincent captures his wife and his child in the most intimate of everyday settings - perched in the bathroom, asleep upright on the bed or sat on the phone. We love the up-close nature of his pictures and the image they paint of the naturalness, necessity and sometimes mundanity of breastfeeding.
Published as a photo book, the series manifests itself as a diary following a chronological order that spans over six months. From the first days at the hospital after the baby’s birth, to the last ones of breastfeeding at home, Ferrané takes the role of an active spectator, emotionally involved and inevitably detached. The self-taught photographer blurs the line between staged fashion and amateur aesthetics. Raw and over-exposed, each shot introduces us to a deeply private world representing the stark, tender reality of a newborn child’s impact on a mother’s life.
Reflecting on the project, Ferrané states: “I think I was struck beyond words by the beauty of those moments. When I say beauty, I don’t mean that it is only pure joy: these are ambivalent times of strength and feeling as one thing with your family on one hand, but also difficult and sometimes harsh and tiring on the other. Elements of nudity in the series such as a lactating breast for example are not ambiguous but simply show one of the roles of a mother in a meaningful, modern and strong way.”
Titled as a reference to Greek mythology, the series assumes a balance between everyday reality and poetic symbolism, with gentle nods to historical iconography.
Still a pertinent topic of conversation, the perception of breastfeeding in recent years has changed for the better. Though the majority are in support of “discreet” breastfeeding in public, a significant portion still deem it inappropriate due to sexualisation of the breast evoked while viewing a breastfeeding mother. Milky Way is intended to be part of the ongoing debate and to encourage those to speak freely on a topic that is often self-censored. As Ferrané aptly says: “Photography is about reading the world, its mystery and your relation with it” and we would certainly agree. Candid, real and utterly absorbing, his Milky Way series has got us completely captivated - and we love its visual take on a subject rarely depicted. Here’s hoping its impact will influence similar projects and encourage us to perhaps rethink what we think we know about breastfeeding.
Words: India Van Spall
Images: Vincent Feranné