Modern Day Train Hopping

Mike Brodie is well-travelled, but by unconventional means. In 2002 the photographer, then in his late teens, skipped town and started

TrainsBrodie2 660Mike Brodie is well-travelled, but by unconventional means. In 2002 the photographer, then in his late teens, skipped town and started train hopping. In the years since, Brodie has travelled over 50,000 miles through 46 states by train, toting his cameras to document the experience.

While on his path of post-adolescent/pre-adulthood discovery, Brodie discovered a network of fellow train hoppers, and equipped with his ever-present Polaroid SX-70, picked up the nickname “The Polaroid Kidd.”

His series of photographs – Brodie shot with Polaroid and 35 mm film – draws from his seven-year stint train hopping across the country, and offers a poignant look into the grit and the grime, the adventure, and the punk idealism the lifestyle entails. Brodie’s work simultaneously captures a sense of fright and a sense of freedom in the journey of these young travelers, going wherever the tracks may lead them.

“The photographs also document a period of transition in Brodie’s life—just after puberty and just before manhood— when hitchhiking for the thrill of the open road, catching rides on freight trains bound for another nowhere town, eating the food left to rot by others and drinking the cheapest alcohol that crosses your lips seems like a perfectly logical and honest way to spend your days. Brodie’s tableau repurposes symbols of decline—trains, Polariods, 35mm film, thrift store clothes—into a seemingly alluring form of ad hoc glamour and freedom tinged with punk rock idealism. The characters drift through post-industrial America. The result: a balance of comeliness and crustiness, filth and beauty, all finely measured by movement, a desire to move on and, at some point, move out of the picture. Although Brodie was never trained, his photographs are an honest and sincere look at the practice of photography that can only come from historical unawareness of the medium. Unknowingly, Brodie’s images follow in the footsteps of photographers like Robert Frank, William Eggleston, Walker Evans and Nan Goldin.” – M + B Gallery

Mike Brodie’s photographs, a selection of which are displayed above, can be seen in person at the M+B Gallery in Los Angeles and the Yossi Milo Gallery in New York. A 104-page hardcover book entitled A Period of Juvenile Prosperity, published by Twin Palms, has also just been released.

This post comes to you via Huckberry, a “biweekly web magazine and shop for guys with taste.” Read more at the Huckberry blog and shop at

Declination is other places, other spaces, and the things that happen there.

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Showing 6 comments
  • j t

    Great share. Love the urban adventure!! Looking forward to seeing more of his photos.

  • Randy

    Wow! Excellent find!

  • Sylvester

    most excellent adventure, i’m 41 yrs old with a baby but i’m going to train hop with my daughter when she;s old enough to run down the tracks and be able to safely hop on. i don’t care if it’s against the law….this is FREEDOM!

  • Mike

    Jack Kerouac would be proud. Amazing idea and spectacular photos that take you into the life!!!

  • Jim

    train hopping! nothing like getting covered in diesel particulate. sit back, relax and inhale!

  • LH80

    Will have to pick up this book! Hopped alot of freights myself from the time I was 18-21 (32 now). Lots of good times and adventures. Lots of hard times too, even if they were mostly self inflicted. Always love seeing others photos of the lifestyle though. I like to look for familiar faces too when I see train hopping photos.

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