Train Hopping, a Photo Series by Mark Brodie

Photographer Mark Brodie spent 10 years traveling 50,000 miles in 46 states by hopping on more than 170 freight trains ... and lived to tell the tale. His photo series, A Period of Juvenile Prosperity, is on display at the Yossi Milo gallery:

Brodie began traveling the railways in 2002 at the age of 17. Unannounced, he left his house with only a few personal belongings. Brodie returned home days later, infatuated with train-hopping culture. “Two weeks later I was gone...this was it, I was riding my very first freight train. And soon, what would begin as mere natural curiosity and self-discovery would evolve into a casting call of sorts.”

Brodie began to photograph his travels in 2004 when he acquired an old Polaroid camera. “A friend gave me a Polaroid camera I found on the back seat of her car. I took a photo of the handlebars of my BMX bike and it looked incredible, so I kept taking pictures, it was that simple.” From 2004-2006, Brodie shot exclusively on Polaroid film, earning him the moniker the Polaroid Kidd; a name he would tag on box cars and walls. From 2006 - 2009, Brodie switched to 35mm film. During this five-year span, Brodie rode over 50,000 miles through 46 states documenting the people and places he encountered along the way. “I know almost everyone I shoot,” Brodie states, “three of the women in the book are ex-girlfriends and a couple of the guys...are best friends.” Brodie captures his companions through intimate portraits set against ever-changing landscapes. His photographs capture the raw reality of his travels: the dirt, the blood, the struggles and, ultimately, a community of travelers who share the challenges and triumphs of life on the road.

View more over at Yossi Milo Gallery: Link - via Slate

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Oh, yeah huh. Endings.

The longer version is that we got off a train we had hopped from Spokane to Cheney and quickly realized that we'd leaped a bit early. We went to get back on and a cop waiting for the train to pass flicked his lights and flagged us over.

We ran.

Through another train headed the other way, into a barn and out the other end, into (and through) a swamp, we realized that we had stirred up a hornet's nest because now there were four patrol cars running code up and down the road.

When we left the marsh, there was just open field right next to the road, so we crawled on our bellies along the berm of a drainage ditch. The cops passed several times up and down the road but never got out of the car, and it was dusk so we thought we'd got away clean.

In reality, we had crawled into someone's backyard. We were so focused on the road ten feet away that we didn't bother looking ahead. A woman was standing on her deck looking at us like we were something she'd stepped in.

Cheney is not a large town, so of course, she know the cop who had honked at us and had already called in. We got a grilling by the side of the road, and they took my bitchin' Rambo knife that I had bought for $5 at the fair. They called our parents (I was 14) and told us to take the first bus back to Spokane and not come back. This was back when police and parents had some discretion.

Nowadays I'd have probably be automatically charged with a host of offenses, and had a very different life. I certainly wouldn't have ended up being an MP in my twenties.
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The last time I hopped a train, it led to me running from police knee deep in swamp water, with a makeshift bandage around my bloody knee, which I smashed along the tracks because I grabbed one rung too low as the train went by. Ah, memories. Do ride the train; it builds character.
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Edward - very well said.

I have a friend who is an avid photographer and he grows tired of hearing, "That's a nice camera. It must make nice pictures." As he puts it, it is no different than telling a carpenter, "That's a nice hammer. It must make nice houses."

A camera is simply one tool that a photographer uses in their craft. Producing powerful images is much more than "point-and-click".
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