In 2006, at the age of 17, Mike Brodie dropped out of high school and, for the next three years, rode 50,000 miles for free on freight trains all across the US. He hopped his first train close to home in Pensacola, Florida, thinking he would visit a friend in Mobile, Alabama. Instead, the train took him in the opposite direction to Jacksonville, Florida. Days later he rode the same train home, arriving back where he started.
Nonetheless, it sparked something in him and he began to wander across America by any means that were free – walking, hitchhiking, and train hopping. Shortly after his travels began he found a camera stuffed behind a car seat and began to take pictures. Brodie spent years crisscrossing the U.S., documenting his experiences, now appreciated as one of the most impressive archives of personal travel photography. He says the transient lifestyle is a protest and estimates some 2,000 to 5,000 people still take part in this secretive activity in the US.
Mike Brodie is quintessentially American. Both his own story and his images immediately connect to our memories of reading the stories of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, but also Kerouac’s On The Road and so much more literature. The endless American landscape as much as that feeling of having, always, endless possibilities ahead. It is written that everything started with Brodie becoming ‘internet famous’ when posting his images as ‘Polaroid Kidd’ and then meeting Paul Schiek (founder of TBW Books, today one of the most interesting publishers around) in Oakland, California, who helped him putting together two bodies of work: Tones of Dirt and Bone (released later, in 2015, but gathering previous material, shot with a Polaroid SX-70) and this amazing book called A Period of Juvenile Prosperity (released 2013 and shot with a Nikon F3 and 35 mm film). Within a short period of time, Brodie ended up being shown in the best galleries and his book became a milestone in the history of photography.
A Period of Juvenile Prosperity is the documentation of Brodie’s free train-hopping journeys across the US from 2004 to 2008. Twin Palms published the 4th edition last year.
About the Author
Born in 1985, Mike Brodie began photographing when he was given a Polaroid camera in 2004. Working under the moniker ‘The Polaroid Kidd,’ Brodie spent the next four years circumambulating the United States, amassing an archive of photographs that make up one of the few, true collections of American travel photography.
Brodie made work in the tradition of photographers like Robert Frank, William Eggleston and Stephen Shore, but due to never having undergone any formal training he always remained untethered to the pressures and expectations of the art market.
Brodie compulsively documented his exploration of the tumultuous world of transient subcultures without regard to how the photographs would exist beyond him. After feeling as though he documented all that he could of his subject, his insatiable wanderlust found a new passion, and as quickly as he began making photographs, he has left the medium to continue in his constant pursuit of new adventures.
In 2008, Brodie received the Baum Award for American Emerging Artists and has a forthcoming book to be published by Steidl, as well as numerous international shows. Brodie recently graduated from the Nashville Auto Diesel College (NADC) and is now working as a diesel mechanic. Although Brodie has stopped making photographs, the body of work he made in only four short years has left a huge impact on the photo world, and is now being made available to the public.