From 2004 through 2008, Mike Brodie traveled the United States photographing places and people. Using the name The Polaroid Kidd, he ended up with what many feel is a true American travel photography collection. Without formal training, or concern for the 'art market', he was liberated from those constraints, and his photographs shine with an honesty that is raw and beautiful.
In 2008, Brodie received the Baum Award for American Emerging Artists. And in 2009, a mere 5 years after such extraordinary dedication to photographing the places and people he encountered - he stopped. What remains, however, is fine testimony to his marvelous eye; he's left a mark on the photography world.
Brodie's photography is categorized into two 'volumes', if you will. One is Tones of Dirt and Bone; the other is A Period of Juvenile Prosperity. Both are published volumes (you can find them on Amazon.com); and following the release of each book, there were a number of gallery shows. The most recent were in March at M+B Gallery in Los Angeles, and in April at Yossi Milo Gallery in New York.
Tones of Dirt and Bone was shot using an instant Polaroid camera, and the photos have the standard square shape and muted quality inherent to the film. Each capture is rich and holds the feeling of being very precious; like the vintage photos of the 1960s. They are seductive photos, soft and direct. They feel like a narrative. (The three photos above are from this collection.)
A Period of Juvenile Prosperity was shot between 2006 and 2009, and it's edgier and more uncomfortable.
There is a raw immediacy to these photos, ones Brodie took at first with a Polaroid camera then switching to 35mm with an 80s camera when the film was discontinued for the Polaroid. The subjects are transient youth, captured with an empathetic and honest eye. Many of them ride the rails, and Brodie met them as he travelled - train hopping and hitch-hiking.
The photos are intriguing and original. They are captures of a little seen part of American culture. Most of us are left feeling wistful that Brodie is no longer riding rails and capturing the places he sees or the people he meets.
What has become of him? He lives in West Oakland, and works as a mobile diesel mechanic. He remains unfazed by the soaring accolades, and no longer pursues photography. But he's left this enchanting legacy, one of youth and robust energy; captured so skillfully to be enjoyed for many years to come.
Read an article that more fully talks about Brodie and his life, here, at the San Francisco Chronicle website.
And buy one of his marvelous books; you won't be disappointed.