According to the English saying, if you have been “left holding the baby,” then you’ve been deserted and left with a responsibility that would ideally be shared. It is similar to the American expression, “left holding the bag,” which also implies a level of criminality or trickery involved when someone is abandoned, swag in hand, to take the rap for someone else’s actions.
In stark contrast to the implied meanings of the well-known sayings, the men in these four photographs appear very proud to be left holding theirs.
Bruce Davidson, Welsh miner, 1965
Chim (David Seymour), [Man holding a baby wearing a long white dress, Alma, Israel] 1951
Erich Salomon, Max Schmeling in training camp, Kingston, New York, 1932
Russell Lee, Family on relief, 1941
Mary Ellen Mark, Father and Son, Dallas, Texas, 1987