Chapter 1: The story behind our name

The M.I.L.K. Project began as a major global search to develop a collection of extraordinary and diverse images portraying humanity's "Moments of Intimacy, Laughter and Kinship" (M.I.L.K.).

The idea came to MILK CEO Geoff Blackwell when he stumbled upon a copy of the 'Family of Man', a book created by the American photographer Edward Steichen from his landmark 1955 exhibition of the same name.

“There was a shot of this older couple sitting in a movie theatre, and this old man is just looking at his wife, who is laughing like mad, and he’s just loving looking at her. And it was just a moment where nothing else in the world mattered.”

This candid photograph moved Geoff deeply and inspired him to begin a 'global search' to develop a collection of images portraying of the fundamental human capacity and need for love. This search took the form of a global photographic competition in 1999.
Announcements were sent to every one of the world’s 192 countries inviting photographers to enter; their challenge was to capture spontaneous human moments of intimacy, laughter and friendship. Ultimately, the competition received 40,000 images, from 17,000 professional and amateur photographers in 164 countries.

The judging process took months and, with the help of legendary Magnum Photographer Elliot Erwitt, the 300 winning images were chosen and became the basis for a published collection.

The collection of winning images was exhibited in New York on 11 July 2001, in the breath-taking surrounds of Grand Central Station.

“We felt that Grand Central Station, one of the busiest places, in one of the busiest cities — that it would be a wonderful place to kick it off.”

And so on that day in 2001, in the middle of Grand Central Station, the inspiration for MILK Books was born. From here, the MILK photographic series took the world by storm, resulting in 4 exhibitions and 8 published photo books that have been translated into more than 12 languages with rights sold in over 13 countries.

The scale of this “photographic event” was enormous, but the concept was simple: to capture and celebrate the essence of humanity. It is this mission that remains at the core of MILK Books today. We believe that these spontaneous images of different people, places, and times, continue to tell a common story and it’s a story that we are passionate about telling.