The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Trains, Punks, and Photographs

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In 2002, 17-year-old Mike Brodie started hopping trains. Over the next five years he took photographs — first using a found Polaroid camera and then an old 35-mm Nikon — documenting his experiences. In the July/August edition of Book Forum, Geoff Dyer reviews A Period of Juvenile Prosperity, a book collecting Brodie’s photographs:

As with Nan Goldin’s Ballad of Sexual Dependency—and if ever a book of photographs deserved to be termed a ballad it’s this one—Brodie’s pictures are entirely from within the world depicted. Goldin always had a knack, according to Luc Sante, for finding beautiful colors and light in what was otherwise a complete dump. The light for Brodie and his fellow travelers is a given, filling their lives with lyric and radiant purpose. The land that blossomed once for Dutch sailors’ eyes whizzes and blurs past as they ride the rails; the light fades, and the dark fields of the Republic roll on under the night. But the book is less a record of sights and places seen than one of the people doing the seeing. Photographs by Helen Levitt don’t just show children playing in the street; they convey what it’s like to be a child. Same here. We share the optimism, recklessness, and manifest romance of these outlaws’ take on destiny.

Earlier this year, Brodie, who is now working as mechanic, talked about the book with All Things Considered on NPR:

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I’ve not seen any sign of the book in Canada, but apparently it is available from the publisher Twin Palms, and I’m sure there will be US independent bookstores who have it.

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