Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mike Brodie's Train-Hopping Photographs

Mike Brodie began hitchhiking across the US in 2003 when he was 17. He just released a book of photographs:

A Period of Juvenile Prosperity, by Mike Brodie

From the publisher:
"At 17 Mike Brodie hopped his first train close to his home in Pensacola, FL thinking he would visit a friend in Mobile, AL. Instead the train went in the opposite direction to Jacksonville, FL. Days later, Brodie rode the same train home, arriving back where he started. Nonetheless, it sparked something and Brodie began to wander across the U.S. by any means that were free - walking, hitchhiking and train hopping. Shortly after, Brodie found a Polaroid camera stuffed behind a carseat. With no training in photography, the instant camera was an opening for Brodie to document his experiences.

As a way of staying in touch with his transient community, Brodie shared his pictures on various websites gaining the moniker “The Polaroid Kidd” [sic]. When the Polaroid film he used was discontinued, Brodie switched to 35mm film and a sturdy 1980’s camera. Brodie spent years crisscrossing the U.S. amassing a collection, now appreciated as one of the most impressive archives of American travel photography."
He spent 4 years traveling and taking photos then left it all behind to become a diesel mechanic.

Here are some photos tagged #Polaroid Kidd from Tumblr:
The Polaroid Kidd

And his website now:
Mike Brodie Photography

A recent interview with Brodie in the Guardian:
Mike Brodie's freight train photographs: 'It's a romantic life, at least in the spring and summer'

Brodie used a Polaroid SX-70 when he started taking photos, similar to the one shown below. (Although all the photos in his new book were shot with a Nikon F3 35mm camera. It still required film developing.) It's an older Land camera that uses self-developing film. You can see the film cartridge jutting out the front. I remember these cameras. It was fun to watch them develop before your eyes. They were expensive though, costing $180 for the camera and $6.90 for each film pack of ten pictures (in 1973).



Bix said...

Imagine paying $1 ea. for a photo? Until the digital revolution, photography was the purview of the wealthy.

Angela and Melinda said...

These are fabulous.

Bix said...

I think the technology has a role in the outcome. Each photograph had more value years ago than today, owing to how it was produced.

Using film, he had to be keen to observe a certain ... picture or story. He might have said, not consciously, "That. That there. That's a story." And he had one or two chances to get that story.

Being able to take photos with a digital camera or on a phone today and not having to get them developed, not even really paying for them, informs the photo. You don't or won't reject or filter as much. Photography has changed a lot in the last 20 years. Lots of goodness, but I do miss the authenticity of older photographs.

Angela and Melinda said...

True, a lot can be faked with digital photos. But still, there are photographers today who work with the old film/developing/paper-print technologies. Just wrote an article on one such fellow. But even such traditional photographers often shoot a lot more than they use--as Bernard Shaw said around 1900, "The photographer is like a cod, which produces million eggs in order that one may reach maturity"!!!!!

Bix said...

It's what makes Brodie's photos so compelling. He did not have the luxury of taking multiple photos, or even of having formal training.