From 2004 to 2008, Brodie freighthopped across the USA, photographing people he encountered, largely train-hoppers, vagabonds, squatters and hobos. He published the photography books A Period of Juvenile Prosperity (2013) and Tones of Dirt and Bone (2015), but hasn’t taken pictures since 2008.
Life and work
Michael Christopher Brodie was born on April 5, 1985 in Mesa, Arizona, the son of Frankie and Gary Brodie. His mother worked most of her life as a maid and caregiver, though is currently a cashier at Walgreens, while his father is currently serving his 3rd prison sentence at the Florence State Prison, in Arizona. In 2000, the Brodie family moved to Pensacola, Florida where Brodie met his first girlfriend who introduced him to the punk rock music scene and the lifestyle therein.
In 2003, while washing dishes at his home, Brodie witnessed a young couple huddled close together on a passing railroad freight car, intrigued by this, Brodie (then age 18) left home, eventually freighthopping across the USA from 2004 to 2008. He photographed his experiences including the people he encountered, largely train-hoppers, vagabonds, squatters and hobos. Initially he used a Polaroid SX-70 given to him by a friend. When Polaroid discontinued SX-70 film around 2005/2006 he swapped to a Nikon F3 and 35 mm film.
His first cross-country trip brought him to Oakland, CA where he met Paul Schiek, founder of TBW Books. Schiek helped Brodie produce two bodies of work from this (latter) period: Tones of Dirt and Bone and A Period of Juvenile Prosperity, which have been exhibited in galleries and become books. Although A Period of Juvenile Prosperity was published and exhibited first, the images in Tones of Dirt and Bone were produced earlier, when Brodie used Polaroid film, before he switched to the 35 mm format of A Period of Juvenile Prosperity. "The 35mm format let me shoot more candidly and truly capture real moments, not staged portraits."
A Period of Juvenile Prosperity was included in lists of best photobooks of 2013 by critic Sean O'Hagan in The Guardian, Clinton Cargill in The New York Times, Dazed, Mother Jones and American Photo magazine. Kenneth Baker, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, listed the A Period of Juvenile Prosperity exhibition at Stephen Wirtz Gallery in his top 10 list for 2013. Vince Aletti in Artforum named Brodie's show in New York as the show of the year, and has said of Brodie's work: "Even if you’re not intrigued by Brodie’s ragtag bohemian cohort—a band of outsiders with an unerring sense of post-punk style—the intimate size and warm, slightly faded color of his prints are seductive. His portraits . . . have a tender incisiveness that is rare at any age." Martin Parr and Gerry Badger call the photographs of A Period of Juvenile Prosperity "unashamedly romantic and warm toned".
Photographer Alec Soth, writing in The Telegraph, included A Period of Juvenile Prosperity in his top ten photobooks of 2013:
I really wanted to dislike this book, but I was completely won over by the pictures, design and even Brodie’s essay. "I don’t want to be famous," he writes, "but I hope this book is remembered for ever." I have a feeling it will be.
Writing in his own blog, Soth also said "Everything about this book is perfect: the size, printing, sequence, cover image, title and essay." Parr and Badger include the book in the third volume of their photobook history, saying that "what makes this book stand out is the quality of the photographs".
Brodie has also collaborated with Swoon, Chris Stain, and Monica Canilao.
In 2009, Brodie attended and graduated from the Nashville Auto-Diesel College, in Nashville, TN, with goals of attaining a career in that field.
After A Period of Juvenile Prosperity was released in 2013, Brodie said he was giving up photography. In 2015, he confirmed this, in an interview with GUP magazine: "I do not take photographs, I have begun a new adventure. I started building my very own machine shop to accommodate the remanufacturing of diesel engines." As of 2017 Brodie is working as a diesel mechanic for the Union Pacific Railroad, as is his wife, who works as a conductor.
- Tones of Dirt and Bone.
- A Period of Juvenile Prosperity. Santa Fe, NM: Twin Palms, 2013. ISBN 978-1-936611-02-7. Available in a first edition, a second edition of 3000 copies, and a third edition.
- 2006: Tones of Dirt and Bone, M+B Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
- 2006: Paris International Photo Fair, Carrousel du Louvre, Paris
- 2007: Homesteadaz, Get This! Gallery, Atlanta, GA
- 2007: Ridin' Dirty Face, Needles and Pens, San Francisco, CA
- 2007: Tones of Dirt and Bone, Bonni Benrubi Gallery, New York, NY
- 2013: **A Period of Juvenile Prosperity. Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, NY
- 2013: A Period of Juvenile Prosperity. M+B Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
- 2013: Stephen Wirtz Gallery, San Francisco, CA
- 2013: Get This! Gallery, Atlanta, GA
Exhibitions with others
- 2007: Galerie LJ, Paris, with Swoon and Chris Stain
- 2007: Paper Boat Gallery, Milwaukee. Collaboration with Monica Canilao
- Lattimore, Deborah (2007). "The Polaroid Kid" (9). JPG. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
- Trippe (2006-03-12). "The Polariod Kid". Fecal Face. Archived from the original on 2006-05-28. Retrieved 2014-03-11.
- Matthews, Katherine Oktober (February 2015). "Making It Count: An Interview with Mike Brodie". GUP Magazine (GUP#44 - Raw).
- Sean O'Hagan (13 December 2013). "The best independent photobooks of 2013". The Guardian.
- Clinton Cargill (19 December 2013). "The Top 10 Photo Books of 2013". The New York Times.
- Zing Tsjeng (2013). "The best photography books of 2013". Dazed.
- "Mother Jones' Photographers Pick the Best Photobooks of 2013". Mother Jones. 19 December 2013.
- Jack Crager (12 November 2013). "2013 Photo Books of the Year: Documentary". American Photo.
- Baker, Kenneth (26 December 2013). "Looking back at art in 2013". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
- O'Hagan, Sean (30 March 2013). "Mike Brodie's freight train photographs: 'It's a romantic life, at least in the spring and summer'". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
- Martin Parr; Gerry Badger (2014). The Photobook: A History, Volume III. London: Phaidon. p. 143. ISBN 978-0-7148-6677-2.
- Soth, Alec (5 December 2013). "Alec Soth: My top 10 photo Books of 2013". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
- Soth, Alec (24 April 2013). "Popsicle #15: A Period of Juvenile Prosperity by Mike Brodie". Alec Soth. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
- "Subscription Series 1". TBW Books. Archived from the original on 11 March 2014. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
- Publisher's publicity page for the book.
- "Mike Brodie". M+B. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
- "Dry Ink; Have Camera, Will Travel". Archived from the original on 2008-02-07.
- "Previous Exhibitions". Get This! Gallery. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
- "Polaroid Kidd at Needles + Pens". Needles and Pens. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
- "Mike Brodie". M+B. Archived from the original on 12 March 2014. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
- "Mike Brodie A Period of Juvenile Prosperity". Stephen Wirtz Gallery. Archived from the original on 12 March 2014. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
- "Get This! Gallery".[not in citation given]
- "Slam X Hype blog".