Bre Furlong’s Half Empty sums up breastfeeding all too well

Philadelphia born and raised, Bre Furlong was an experienced commercial photographer working in the ad world before she decided to go freelance at the height of the pandemic. Exactly a week later, she found out she was pregnant. “Since then I’ve been figuring out how to merge my career and motherhood, and with little sleep and lots of espresso, we’re making it happen,” she says.

After a traumatic birth, she remembers wanting to create something to help process the trauma, but – as anyone who’s ever tried will know – finding any time for personal projects as a new parent is as good as impossible. Soon came the next challenge: breastfeeding, an experience Bre describes as, much like motherhood in general, “very lonely… but when we open up, we learn that we all share similar experiences”. Not wanting to let another transformative experience go undocumented, Bre looked to capture her journey, but also that of many others, in her project Half Empty.

The series of photographic still lifes mostly depicts the all-too-familiar ephemera surrounding the experience of breastfeeding, each focused on a different aspect of the emotional and physical rollercoaster that it is. One, titled Pumpingfeatures a breastpump, an alarm clock (set to 2am, maybe 2pm, what’s the difference?), a smattering of snacks and a full hairclip. These are otherwise prosaic objects that, when artfully composed together, become a highly recognisable vignette of a moment in time to which many viewers will relate. Another, titled Hairfallfeatures a comb with a clump of hair and a pill box poignantly focused on three days of the week that spell “WTF”. The compositions are designed to evoke emotions and stories; for example the latter, Bre explains, “was meant to feel just as haunting and confusing as it is to see your body morph into something unfamiliar”. Here, she intentionally chose a soft pink palette to represent femininity and vanity, “because after all, it’s merely superficial. In the end, your child will be loved, and the hair loss, cystic acne, and deflated breasts will hopefully be embraced, but it’s still a bit horrifying to experience that loss of identity.”

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