Mike Brodie - Untitled, 2004
These photographs by Mike Brodie of train-hopping nomads have been making the rounds on the internet lately, but this particular photo strikes me as the most powerful. Amid the rest of the photos, I was surprised by the sight of the child—for a moment, I assumed it was two lovers splayed out on one another. Indeed, the child has renaissance-like bulk to his muscles, his left foot pushed awkwardly to its length feels manneristic, and his foreshortened hand, rendered inert as he reaches for milk looks unreal. In fact, it was the shadow of the breast that first alerted me to the real relations of sitters in this portrait. Here, the composition and position of the figures frames the drama of the scene: the child, certainly too old to be breast-feeding, has to strain his body to feed himself; the mother can lie back carelessly and not have to cradle nor worry about him; breast-feeding a child means that the mother has one less mouth to feed.