Photographer Travels over 50,000 Miles Across the US

legs hanging off of train

If you compiled the number of miles you traveled over the past 10 years, you would most probably exceed 50,000 miles. Mike Brodie did, too, but he did it through walking, hitchhiking and train hopping. He was only 17 when he boarded the wrong train and ended up in the opposite direction of his hometown, Pensacola, Florida. This event led him to explore train hopping more thoroughly since then.

Over the last 10 years, he has been to over 46 states in the US. I imagine he came across some interesting characters along the way aboard the 170 freight trains he ‘hopped’ on. He began his journey in 2002, but he only started documenting his tales in 2004, after stumbling upon a Polaroid camera hidden behind a friend’s belongings. The images he captured garnered some attention online, which earned him the nickname, “The Polaroid Kid.” Unfortunately, Polaroid film was discontinued shortly after, so Brodie opted to use 35mm film on a different camera instead.

hitchhikers in the rearview mirror

people sleeping on the ground

Brodie has amassed a remarkable collection of photographs considering he has never undergone any formal training in the art industry. His body of work over the four years he spent traveling has been published in a new book called A Period of Juvenile Prosperity.

snowy road and train tracks

people walking at sunset

dirty jeans soaking in bath tub

It’s always interesting to see the results of people who just decide to pick up a camera one day and shoot because there’s minimal fuss; no dilemma over which lens to use or what your white balance settings should be.

I’m not too familiar with the subculture, but I enjoyed seeing Brodie’s narrative style. Some of these photos are quite good, in my opinion, and more importantly, they feel very real. I don’t think I’ll be hopping on trains anytime soon, but I do appreciate the novelty of traveling without a destination in mind.

people studying a map

girl with her hair flying in the wind

people sleeping on floor

man hanging on train

train hoppers on freight train

Don’t hold your breath for the next installment of his adventures because he is no longer pursuing photography. He writes on his website:

Brodie recently graduated from the Nashville Auto Diesel College (NADC) and is now working as a mobile diesel mechanic in his silver ’93 Dodge Ram. Although he has stopped making photographs, the body of work he made in four short intense years has left an enduring impact on the photo world.

Patricia Ramos

Patricia Ramos

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.